Ambulance being used to spread the message about stroke deaths

An ambulance in Galway is doubling up as a mobile billboard as part of an initiative aimed at reducing stroke deaths.

This first advertisement campaign using emergency vehicles is designed to increase public awareness of the Act FAST campaign on stroke warning signs.

In addition to their normal lifesaving work the ambulances in Galway, Donegal, Roscommon and Limerick are being used to display and promote the Irish Heart Foundation’s drive.

The FAST stroke warning signs are:

Face - has the face fallen on one side? Can the patient smile?

Arms - can s/he raise both arms and keep them there?

Speech- is his/her speech slurred?

Time - time to call 999/112 if you see any one of these signs.

The HSE West says the use of ambulances as billboards for the FAST campaign will help re-ignite the charity-funded Act FAST campaign. This has contributed to an increase of more than 400 per cent in the numbers of stroke patients receiving potentially life-saving clot-busting treatment known as thrombolysis since its launch in 2010.

The campaign has had a huge lifesaving and quality-of-life impact in every corner of Ireland, says Irish Heart Foundation head of advocacy, Chris Macey.

“But the reality is that potentially lifesaving treatments like thrombolysis are no use if patients do not get to hospital in time to receive them. Time means brain and every delay in recognising symptoms ultimately delays the patient’s access to vital treatment. In recent months, stroke physicians have been telling us of a significant decline in the numbers getting to hospital in time to be saved. Thanks to the National Ambulance Service, we now have an innovative means to put across the FAST message which we hope will capture the public imagination all over again.”

Gerry Clarke of the HSE West’s Galway Ambulance Service, says a significant number of ambulance service members have personal experience within their wider families of the potentially devastating effects of a stroke.

“This personal insight has generated a high degree of intrinsic motivation amongst our managers, control and operational staff to play our part, in collaboration with healthcare colleagues, the National Stroke Programme and the wider public, to deliver better outcomes for victims of stroke. To date, our control staff, paramedics and advanced paramedics have demonstrated consistently high standards of provisional diagnosis of stroke using FAST.”

The HSE says the growth in public awareness of stroke warning signs has coincided with a major development of stroke services nationally, including an increase in the number of stroke units from six to 27 and the expansion of 24/7 thrombolysis treatment from a small number of hospitals mainly in urban areas to all hospitals that treat stroke patients.

For more information on stroke symptoms, treatment or support log onto www.stroke.ie or talk to an Irish Heart Foundation nurse in confidence on the National Heart and Stroke Helpline at Locall 1890 432 787.

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