SWMC challenges community to think FAST

April 29, 2016

If someone you knew were experiencing a stroke, would you know the warning signs?

Southwest Medical Center demonstrated its stroke alert process through a stroke simulation using new telemedicine service technology. Telemedicine services at SWMC provide 24/7 access to trained neurologists for patients who present with a stroke or other emergent neurological condition. The stroke simulation experience walked a mock patient through steps to recognize signs of a stroke, as well as how medical treatment takes place.


Stacy Michelle, left, with the Seward County EMS crew speaks with stroke demonstration patient, Cheryl Collins, about the signs of a stroke, and how the EMS team works with Southwest Medical Center to initiate a stroke alert during transport. One sign that’s common in a stroke is facial drooping, or the inability of facial muscles to form an even smile.

Dr. Stephen Resnick, Southwest Medical Center’s emergency department Medical Director,  explained that the F.A.S.T. acronym is the easiest way to catch the warning signs of a stroke.

The F.A.S.T. approach stands for: face, arm, speech, and time. When a stroke occurs, the loss of blood flow to certain areas of the brain can disrupt communication and basic body functions, including the following:

  • Face – a person experiencing a stroke may show drooping on one side of their face near the eyes or lips due to loss of muscle control. Look for an uneven smile.
  • Arm – during a stroke, muscle weakness may affect one side of the body. Ask the person to hold their arms in front of them with their palms facing up. Next, have this person close their eyes and continue to hold out their arms. Seeing one arm drift down may indicate muscle weakness.
  • Speech – a person having a stroke may experience trouble communicating. Listen for slurred speech, or responses where the order of words in a sentence becomes mixed up.

The F.A.S.T. acronym ends with “time.” Determining the last time a person seemed normal can be important information in treating possible stroke. Time is also an important factor in recovery. The faster a patient can be treated for stroke, the less damage there is to a person’s brain. Fast treatment can also allow a patient to recover basic functions in speech and muscle movement, whereas others may suffer permanent loss of function or communication abilities.

Dr. Resnick stressed that calling 911 at the first signs of a stroke will help bring the best recovery outcome for a person suffering from possible stroke. Having new telemedicine services available at Southwest Medical Center also leads to faster diagnosis and treatment to improve a person’s survival and quality of life.

When a call to 911 comes in for a possible stroke, responding Seward County EMS crews assist in the early stage of a stroke alert by evaluating a patient during transport and collecting important information about the patient’s health status.  In communication with SWMC’s emergency department, a stroke alert may be issued within the hospital to prepare the stroke response team, physicians, and the Diagnostic Imaging department for the arrival of a stroke patient. Depending on a patient’s initial evaluation, EMS crews may be instructed to unload a patient from the ambulance and transport them directly to CT technologists to conduct a CT scan upon arrival.


SWMC’s Emergency Department Medical Director, Dr. Stephen Resnick, works alongside Dr. Jeffrey Wagner, a telemedicine neurologist, to set a plan of care for Cheryl Collins, who served as a patient in this simulated stroke alert. During a stroke, time between onset and treatment is essential in helping to reduce damage to the brain and restoring basic functions.

Next, CT images are uploaded immediately for reading by radiologists and neurologists available through SWMC’s telemedicine program. Inside an emergency room, nursing staff and the emergency physician set up a call using a telemedicine robot. This robot serves as a communication tool between the patient, family members, stroke team, ER physician, and an off-site neurologist who can evaluate the patient’s physical condition and CT scan to help determine the best treatment for a patient experiencing a stroke. This fast-paced, well-coordinated response ensures proper treatment is provided as quickly as possible.

When a stroke is identified and treatment is sought quickly, certain medications may be given to possibly reduce or resolve the effects of a stroke. This medication may only be given within 3 to 4.5 hours of the initial onset of stroke symptoms, which is why it is important to act quickly when a stroke is suspected. The effects of a stroke can be life-threatening and debilitating. Southwest Medical Center’s stroke team encourages our community to think F.A.S.T. and dial 911 if you recognize someone showing signs of a stroke.