May is National Stroke Awareness Month and learning the signs of a stroke and the action to take can help save lives. That’s why Wilcox Memorial Hospital has partnered with the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association Hawaii Division to educate Kauai students on how to spot a stroke and save a life.
“Greater community awareness to recognize stroke warning signs and the actions to take when stroke occurs are needed to achieve better patient outcomes, with time to treatment being key,” said Jen H. Chahanovich, president and CEO of Wilcox Memorial Hospital and a member of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association Hawaii Division Board of Directors. “Our goal with this program is to educate children on how to quickly recognize any warning signs of a stroke so that they can take that message home to their families and we can reduce the impact of stroke in our community.”
Recognizing a stroke has been made easier by the American Stroke Association’s development of the F.A.S.T. stroke awareness campaign. “F” stands for facial droop, usually on one side. “A” stands for arm weakness or numbness, again usually on one side. “S” stands for difficulty speaking, or speech slur. “T” stands for time; time to call 9-1-1. Anyone who witnesses someone having one or more of these warning signs should immediately call 9-1-1.
“Quickly recognizing any warning signs of a stroke and calling 9-1-1 sets in motion a process that will reduce the time to treatment and allow for early diagnosis on the way to the hospital,” said Chahanovich. “Kauai’s EMS personnel have the ability to contact our emergency department before arrival to advise us if a patient is suspected of suffering a stroke. This allows us to prepare our personnel and equipment to immediately deliver treatment upon the patient’s arrival, which improves the patient’s chances for a better outcome.”
Wilcox Memorial Hospital has been certified as a Primary Stroke Center by The Joint Commission and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. The certification recognizes hospitals that meet standards to support better outcomes for stroke care.
Representatives from Wilcox and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association have been visiting Kauai elementary and middle schools throughout the school year to teach students about the warning signs of a stroke. Nearly 7,000 Kauai elementary and middle school students have participated in the educational program.
Every student receives a magnet highlighting the F.A.S.T. stroke warning signs and a flyer with additional information to bring home to discuss with their family. They also receive a lifesaver rubber duck if they return the signed form to their school after discussing the stroke warning signs with their family.
Schools that participated in the program this school year include:
King Kaumualii Elementary
Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School
Kapaa Middle School
Waimea Canyon Middle School
The program has been so well received that it is being extended to Kauai’s public high schools, private schools and charter schools in the next school year.
“I am very proud of our elementary and middle school students, families and staff for their participation in the F.A.S.T. Stroke Awareness Program,” said Bill Arakaki, Kauai Complex Area Superintendent, Hawaii State Department of Education. “This will support the quick response for someone with warning signs of a stroke. Our schools are working together with Wilcox Memorial Hospital and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association in saving a life and taking care of our Kauai ohana.”
Stroke occurs when the arteries leading to and within the brain are suddenly blocked or ruptured, causing a lack of oxygen to the brain and potential permanent damage. While stroke has fallen to the No. 5 cause of death nationally, it unfortunately remains the No. 3 cause of death in Hawaii, surpassed only by heart disease and cancer. Stroke is also the leading cause of disability in the United States.
Wilcox Memorial Hospital Community Benefit Manager Eva LaBarge (second from right) and Emergency Room Manager Kevin Myrick (right) join Guillermo Ruiz (left) of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association Hawaii Division for a visit to Koloa Elementary School in early May, during which they presented students and Principal Linda Uyehara (second from left) magnets highlighting the F.A.S.T. stroke warning signs and flyers with additional information on ways to recognize a stroke.
About the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association:
The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association are devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – America’s No. 1 and No. 5 killers. The organization teams with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies, and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The American Heart Association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To learn more or to get involved locally, call the AHA’s Honolulu office at (808) 377-6630. From neighbor islands, call toll-free at 1-866-205-3256.
About Wilcox Memorial Hospital:
Founded in 1938, Wilcox Memorial Hospital is a not-for-profit hospital dedicated to providing the Kaua‘i community with accessible, quality health care. The largest medical center on Kaua‘i, it is a state-of-the-art acute care facility with a full suite of services in more than 20 specialties including cardiology, emergency, family practice, gastroenterology, internal medicine, neurology, OB/GYN, oncology, orthopedics, pediatrics and urology. Its 20-bed emergency department is the first neighbor island facility to obtain a Level III Trauma designation. The hospital also has four birthing suites, seven intensive care beds and 20 same-day surgery beds. The American Heart Association has recognized Wilcox in three areas of excellence: stroke (S) – gold plus award, heart failure (HF) – gold plus award, and atrial fibrillation (AFIB) – silver award. Wilcox has also received the QUEST citation of merit for high-value health care, and is recognized as a Top Performer on Key Quality Measures by The Joint Commission. Learn more at wilcoxhealth.org.