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High Schooler Recognizes BE FAST Symptoms & Catches His Mom’s Stroke Early

Treatments, Neurology, Service Line, Community & News, Patient Stories, Women's Health
May 20, 2024
High Schooler Recognizes BE FAST Symptoms & Catches His Mom’s Stroke Early

Jamie Hughes had just gotten back home from a Rosary walk around her neighborhood when she decided to play ball with her dogs.  

It was a beautiful early spring day in March – the sun was shining, and Jamie was feeling the lag of the holidays finally wearing off. It seemed like any other change of the seasons. 

But, when she raised the tennis ball up to throw it, Jamie realized that she was starting to feel a bit light-headed.  

“I remember feeling almost like I was going to pass out… I saw stars a bit,” Jamie told WVXU News’ Lucy May on an episode of Cincinnati Edition. “But I was cognitive and was thinking, ‘Maybe I just did a little too much today.’” 

As she was ready to chalk it up to overactivity and just lay down for a bit, Jamie’s husband, Brad, noticed her speech was impeded when she responded to a question he asked.  

“Why are you talking like a toddler?” Brad asked her.

She kept doing it, so he continued asking, “Why are you talking like that?” 

When it was clear she wasn’t goofing with him, Brad remembered that slurred speech is one of the BE FAST warning signs.  

BE FAST is an acronym used to quickly identify the symptoms of a stroke. It stands for:  

Balance – Sudden loss of balance, headache or dizziness. 

Eyes – Sudden loss of vision, blurred or double vision. 

Face – One side of the face is drooping. 

Arms – Arm or leg weakness on one side of the body. 

Speech – Slurred or strange speech. 

Time – If you observe any of these signs, don’t wait and call 911 right away! 

Although Brad recognized her speech, he couldn’t remember all the symptoms off the top of his head to check for.

However, almost as if by some miraculous coincidence, their son Jake – then a junior in high school – had just taken a test on strokes in his physiology class that very same morning.

Fortunately, Jake had studied. 

“My son came down, and he did all of the BE FAST… everything,” Jamie remembered. “And he looked at my husband and said, ‘You need to call right now – call 911.’”

Jake was right. He successfully recognized his mom’s stroke, and together with his dad they were able to act quickly – getting Jamie into the hospital before the stroke had even finished happening. 

This early recognition is crucial when it comes to maximizing recovery and minimizing long term effects.

“Stroke treatment outcomes are worsened with just 15-minute delays in care,” shared Dr. Christopher Zammit, TriHealth’s Medical Director for Stroke, Neuroscience Critical Care, and Acute Neurologic Emergencies, when discussing the importance of stroke recognition. “Additionally, it also increases the possibility of complications from treating a stroke.” 

Any delay, even driving to the hospital as opposed to calling an ambulance, can have a lasting impact. 

“Never try to drive someone to the emergency department… don’t second guess,” says Dr. Zammit. “A person can have a lesser chance of going home after their stroke, they can have a lesser chance of becoming independent, and they can have a lesser chance of being able to walk on their own again.” 

Luckily, Jake and his dad were able to get Jamie into an ambulance as soon as possible, helping avoid some of the more challenging long-term effects some people experience. 

“I was right back to normal after,” Jamie described. “It was almost like a light switch.”

Jamie’s stroke was operated on by amazing neurosurgeons at Mayfield Brain & Spine, a partner in neurological care with the TriHealth Neuroscience Institute.

“My husband said that before I went in, my eyes were dim… I had all the symptoms,” she went on. “Slurring my words, my left side was paralyzed – and after the surgery, everything went back to normal.” 

Jamie said she is grateful for the BE FAST checklist.

“Just being aware of that now is amazing,” she explained. “Because if roles were reversed, I did not know that.” 

It’s also important to remember that although many associate strokes with older people and health complications, strokes can affect anyone.

“We treat people in their adolescence… 18, 20-year-olds with strokes,” says Dr. Zammit. “Anyone can have a stroke.” 

Jamie was recently recognized at the 2024 TriHealth Neuroscience Conference, the second installment of the annual event. The conference was focused on current evidence-based practices in the medical and surgical management of acute stroke recognition, prevention, and life after stroke for patients. 

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