Spot A Stroke? Call 911!

Stroke is a medical emergency and anytime you believe that someone is having a stroke, you need to call 911 immediately.

What is a stroke?

A stroke is when there is a sudden loss of blood to a section of your brain. There are two types of strokes. The first type is an ischemic stroke. These strokes occur when there is a blockage in the brain causing the loss of blood flow. This is the most common cause of a stroke. The second type of stroke is called a hemorrhagic stroke. This stroke occurs when there is a bleed within the brain.

Are strokes common?

The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada indicates that strokes continue to be the 3rd leading cause of death and the leading cause of disability in Canada. Each year 62,000 people are treated in Canadian hospitals for stroke – equalling 1 stroke every 9 minutes. Currently there are 400,000 people living with the effects of stroke. This is expected to double within 20 years.

What are the signs of a stroke?

The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada has a national campaign to support the public in determining if someone may be experiencing a stroke.

Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, strokes have not stopped. If someone has a sudden onset of one or more of these symptoms it is important to call 911 immediately as the person may be experiencing a stroke.

Why call 911?

Unlike other illnesses or conditions, a stroke cannot be reversed. It is critical to get to the Emergency Department as quickly as possible in order to receive appropriate imaging and treatment. Treatments for stroke can only be given within hours of symptom onset. The faster the person receives treatment the more likely it is that damage to the brain can be minimized. Therefore, getting the right treatment quickly is the best way to minimize disability.

Is calling 911 really faster and safer?

All paramedics in Ontario are trained to complete a stroke screening tool and a stroke severity assessment. If the person is displaying symptoms of stroke, paramedics begin to speak with the hospital immediately. They provide them with details about the symptoms, when the person was last known or seen to be well, and other clinical information. In many communities the neurologists are not always at the hospital. This allows the hospital to connect with the appropriate physician to let them know a patient experiencing stroke symptoms is on their way. This way the physician is at, or close to the hospital when the patient arrives to the Emergency Department saving valuable time. Even if you live a short distance from the hospital, by calling 911 you are activating a number of supports and resources behind the scene that are supporting the coordination of your care.

When someone is experiencing stroke-like symptoms, transporting them by car to the hospital can be dangerous. Stroke symptoms do not always stay the same – they can improve but they can also worsen. Paramedics have the training and supplies to support care if symptoms worsen, for example if breathing becomes difficult.

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