Lowcountry EMS agencies educate residents about stroke symptoms

BERKELEY COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – Berkeley County EMS held a demonstration Friday to show the proper steps that should be taken if you, or someone you know, ever experiences stroke-like symptoms.

First responders are educating Lowcountry residents about how to identify and respond to a suspected stroke situation.

“We are really trying to drive home for the general public how to recognize signs and symptoms of a stroke,” Berkeley County EMS Chief Michael Shirey said, “and the importance of calling 9-1-1 immediately.”

Health experts often use a mnemonic known as “BE FAST” to describe what they look for when a person is experiencing stroke-like symptoms.

“The ‘B’ is balance,” Shirey said. “If a person loses their balance. Also, looking for their eyes. Is there a gaze? Looking at their face and looking for facial droop. Also, speech patterns. Do they have slurred speech, or can’t speak at all? And then finally, super important as we said before, to note the time that it all began.”

Shirey says time is important in stroke situations because the more time that goes by, the more costly the consequences.

“Time is brain in this situation,” Shirey said. “The more time that passes, the more damage is done to the brain during the stroke.”

Berkeley County EMS transports the patient to a hospital as quickly as possible for treatment.

“What we do when someone arrives is we activate what’s called a stroke activation,” Trident Medical Center emergency medical physician Ibrahim Isa, M.D. said. “So, we get a neurologist to evaluate the patient immediately at bedside. They get an IV placed immediately and we get them to a CAT scan as soon as possible. And what we’re looking for on CAT scan is to see if there’s any evidence of any bleeding or anything like that.”

There are currently two treatment options available.

“We have a medication that’s a clot-busting kind of medication that we use,” Isa said. “The time we can use it is from 0 to 4 and a half hours. If someone falls out of the timeframe to get the clot-busting medication, they can actually undergo a specialized treatment where they can go in and remove a clot if there’s salvageable brain tissue there.”