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Stroke SignsStroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States and is a leading cause of disability often with painful, debilitating and costly after-effects.  Rapid treatment is proven to lead to better recovery so time is precious from the moment stroke symptoms appear. Unfortunately, according to the American Heart Association, more than one-third of stroke patients don’t call for an ambulance to get to the hospital.  Studies show that calling an ambulance, will help you arrive at the hospital quicker, be evaluated sooner, and receive treatment faster

Ambulance personnel transport persons with stroke-like symptoms to the nearest Primary Stroke Center (PSC), a facility that is certified by The Joint Commission like UPMC Susquehanna Williamsport and equipped to meet standards that support better outcomes for stroke care.  They alert the emergency department en route so providers can be ready to perform a brain CAT scan and evaluate for criteria that permits for administration of a clot-busting medication called Tissue Plasminogen Activator (tPA) which must be given within four-and-a-half hours of symptom onset.  

Stroke treatments are improving with better medications, procedures and protocols that improve efficiency. Some facilities use teleneurology technology, a video conference much like Skype, to make sure the neurological exam and treatment can be done quickly.  Teleneurology enables hospitals to have a neurologist at the bedside within minutes 24 hours a day / 7 days a week. 

Some people are reluctant to call an ambulance because they don’t want to “be a bother,” others may not recognize stroke symptoms or do not understand the importance of getting treatment quickly. They may even call their family doctor about symptoms that require emergency treatment.

 Learn these symptoms, and you may save a life:

  • Face drooping: Is one side of the face drooping, or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.
  • Arm weakness: Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift down?
  • Speech difficulty: Is speech slurred, or is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Can the person repeat a simple sentence, such as "The sky is blue"?
  • Time: Call 911! If any of these symptoms exist -- even if they go away -- call 9-1-1 so ambulance personnel can transport to the hospital quickly.

Other stroke symptoms can include:

  • Dizziness
  • An unexplained fall
  • Loss of balance
  • Sudden onset of what feels like the worst headache of the person’s life
  • Sudden blurriness in eyes or decreased vision in one or both eyes

Be aware of your risks for stroke and take steps to minimize them.  Don’t smoke, but do manage your diabetes and blood pressure.  Have your cholesterol checked and maintain a healthy weight by eating right and exercising as recommended by your doctor.  If you ever suspect that you or a loved one is having a stroke, don’t hesitate to call 9-1-1 for an ambulance.

Stroke Support Groups

UPMC Susquehanna offers Stroke and Brain Injury Support Group in Williamsport and Lock Haven to improve the quality of life of patients and their families following a stroke or brain injury. Health care professionals involved in the support group sessions may include members from neurology, nursing, occupational, recreational, and physical therapy, social work and speech language pathology. The support groups are also designed to provide emotional support and opportunities for socializing/interacting with individuals who face similar challenges in their recovery journey. View dates and times.