WakeMed Blogs

Having a Stroke? Here’s Why You Should Call EMS

May 30, 2017

It sounds like she’s slurring her words a little bit, and she’s not holding her coffee cup like she normally does.  Is her face drooping on one side? 

Something really doesn’t seem right.

I’m really worried.  Is she having a stroke?  Maybe we should call 9-1-1.  Or would it be quicker for me to just drive her to the hospital?  I’m really worried.

Recognizing the Signs of Stroke, Getting Help F.A.S.T.

There are two important things to discuss about this brief scenario.

FIRST – this person has recognized that her family member may be having a stroke.

That’s really important.  They need to get proper care quickly because time matters.  Getting her to definitive care as safely and efficiently as possible gives her the best chance for a good outcome.

SECOND – It is important to discuss the best way to get her definitive care.

We may sometimes feel hesitant to call 9-1-1 and have EMS respond.  Maybe we think it’s not that serious.  Maybe we don’t want to create a big scene in front of the house.  Or we think there’s probably someone who needs EMS worse than we do.  We don’t want to “bother” them.

The truth is, if you believe someone is having a stroke, calling 9-1-1 is by far the best option.

Having a Stroke? Call 9-1-1- Immediately!

The following are some of the reasons why you should call 9-1-1- for a stroke.

#1 – Paramedics are well-trained & experienced at evaluating people for stroke.

Paramedics can quickly gather important information that is critical to the treatment process that will follow in the stroke center at the hospital.  EMS can communicate that critical information directly to the hospital from wherever they are.

Having that information from EMS ahead of time allows the hospital to immediately begin preparing for the arrival of the person having a stroke, and that time savings is important.

#2 – EMS knows the best place to take the patient.

Paramedics will evaluate for “last known normal,” which is the last time that the person was known to be without stroke symptoms.  Based on this information, EMS will know whether the patient is best served at any emergency department, an emergency department at a Stroke Center hospital, or one at a Stroke Center hospital that can provide intervention for stroke patients if needed.

#3 – Paramedics can monitor and treat certain conditions associated with stroke.

Intervention for stroke itself, when possible, happens at the stroke center.  But stroke may also cause critical symptoms that need immediate management by paramedics, such as difficulty breathing.  Those symptoms can be dangerous, and they can’t be treated if the victim is riding to the hospital in a private car.

Stroke written in wooden cubes

EMS is the safest way to get a stroke victim to the hospital.

The last thing a stroke victim needs is to ride in a car with a driver who is completely distracted by their worry for the victim.  When they arrive at the hospital, they’ll have to figure out a way to get the victim in the front door.  If you don’t have enough trained help, that can be even more dangerous for someone suffering from a stroke.

Getting Immediate Care for the Best Outcome

As we mentioned,

the goal is to get a stroke victim to definitive care as quickly, safely, and efficiently as possible in order to give that person the best chance for a good outcome.

Calling 9-1-1 and letting EMS help is the best way to achieve that goal.


About Jeffrey Hammerstein

Jeffrey Hammerstein is the Chief of Community Outreach at Wake County EMS.

Having been employed by Wake County EMS since 1988, Jeffrey has served as a field paramedic, Field Training Officer, and District Chief.

Currently, Jeffrey is responsible for internal and external communications for Wake County EMS, including: outreach, education, visits, special events, and more.

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