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Be Fast: Recognize Stroke Symptoms

August 18, 2023

Annual training to remind members of Hartford HealthCare’s Independence at Home team the signs of stroke recently proved life-saving for two colleagues.

Urging you to BEFAST like Hartford HealthCare’s Independence at Home team. Melissa Lawson, stroke program supervisor, Hartford HealthCare Windham and Backus hospitals, organized a training in BEFAST, a nationally-recognized acronym for stroke recognition and response. Of the 91 Independence at Home caregivers were two women who were soon able to apply the training to their own lives.

“We want our staff to know the signs of a stroke and understand the importance of calling 911 when these symptoms are identified. We encourage people to overact because it can save lives,” Lawson says of the training.

BEFAST, she explains, explains the symptoms caregivers should watch for:

  • Balance. Sudden changes in gait, loss of balance and coordination.
  • Eyes. Sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes.
  • Face drooping. Facial asymmetry with movement.
  • Arm weakness. A sudden change such as numbness/tingling, heaviness or inability to move one side of the body.
  • Speech. Sudden change in the way the person is talking including the sound of their words and fluency of their speech.
  • Time to call 911.

Shortly after the session, one colleague applied BEFAST to identify symptoms in herself, while another, Yolanda Vazquez, identified symptoms in a client.

Vazquez cares for a couple and noticed the husband slowing down on a walk and beginning to slur his words. Over time, his symptoms improved but she had already called 911 and he was diagnosed with mild a stroke.

“This is why we provide this education yearly to our staff and in the community. It is really special that the team had this training and were able to use it in real-time,” Lawson says.

Hartford HealthCare employees can access a BEFAST presentation in HealthStream. Community events are done throughout different times of the year by all of Hartford HealthCare stroke coordinators.

Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death and top cause of disability. Each Hartford HealthCare acute care facility is certified by The Joint Commission to offer stroke awareness education for colleagues and the community.