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Identify Stroke Email - Three Simple Questions

Email forward claims that you can help identify a stroke by asking the victim three simple questions (Full commentary below.)


Example:(Submitted, April 2005)
Subject: Is it a stroke?

A true story -

Susie is recouping at an incredible pace for someone with a massive stroke - all because Sherry saw Susie stumble - -that is the key that isn't mentioned below - and then she asked Susie the 3 questions. So simple - - this literally saved Susie's life - - I received this very same e-mail the week Susie had her stroke. Some angel sent it to me and I did just what it said to do. She failed all three and I did call 911. Even though she had normal blood pressure readings and did not appear to be a stroke as she could converse to some extent with the Paramedics they took her to the hospital right away.

I thank God for the sense to remember the 3 steps!

Read and Learn!
SOMETHING WE ALL NEED TO KNOW, IS IT A STROKE? Sometimes symptoms of a stroke are difficult to identify. Unfortunately, the lack of awareness spells disaster. The stroke victim may suffer brain damage when people nearby fail to recognize the symptoms of a stroke. Now doctors say a bystander can recognize a stroke by asking three simple questions:

*Ask the individual to SMILE.

*Ask him or her to RAISE BOTH ARMS.

*Ask the person to SPEAK A SIMPLE SENTENCE.

If he or she has trouble with any of these tasks, call 9-1-1 immediately and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher.
After discovering that a group of nonmedical volunteers could identify facial weakness, arm weakness and speech problems, researchers urged the general public to learn the three questions.

They presented their conclusions at the American Stroke Association's annual meeting last February. Widespread use of this test could result in prompt diagnosis and treatment of the stroke and prevent brain damage.

A cardiologist says if everyone who gets this e-mail sends it to 10 people, you can bet that at least one life will be saved.

It could save their lives!

The procedure for identifying a stroke that is outlined in this email forward is valid. According to information available on the American Stroke Association's website, the three questions outlined in the email are a medically viable method for a layperson to ascertain if a person is presenting with stroke symptoms.

The procedure was originally outlined in a report to the American Stroke Association's 28th International Stroke Conference. The report states that a bystander may be able to spot someone having a stroke by giving the person a simple, quick test to see if they can smile, raise both arms and keep them up, and speak a simple sentence coherently...

Certainly, the core information in the email is worth heeding. Knowing how to conduct this simple test could indeed save a person's life. The aforementioned report explains that if bystanders can relay results of this test to an emergency dispatcher, it could speed treatment to stroke patients. Time is crucial in treating stroke.

America's National Stroke Association lists the following as common symptoms of stroke:
Given this list of symptoms, it is easy to see how the simple three-question test could help identify a stroke.

However, there is an important point that needs to be considered. While the central information in the email is true, the absence of these symptoms does not necessarily indicate that a person is NOT having a stroke. It could be extremely dangerous to reach the conclusion that a person did not require medical attention just because he or she could successfully carry out the three steps outlined in the test. A site visitor relates the following real life experience, which graphically illustrates this potential danger:

My mother-in-law suffered a stroke this morning. I had just told her last week about the three simple tests for identifying someone who might be having a stroke (which I received via e-mail). She was having difficulty walking and had a little numbness on one side of her face but she was able to smile, lift her hands above her head and speak in coherent sentences. Thus, she concluded that she was not having a stroke and delayed seeing her doctor. The three simple tests certainly could help a bystander identify someone who might be having a stroke but the absence of these symptoms doesn't mean that a person is NOT having a stroke. I feel just awful that she delayed treatment because of what I told her and that she missed the window of opportunity to receive the thrombolytic (clot-busting) therapy. The damage is already done.
Furthermore, it appears that someone has seen fit to embellish the story by adding a description of an alleged incident in which the diagnostic test was used to good effect. However, there is no way of telling if "Susie" and "Sherry" are real people or just fictional characters designed to emphasize the information and add a folksy element to the message. Interestingly, the sentence, "A cardiologist says if everyone who gets this e-mail sends it to 10 people, you can bet that at least one life will be saved" is lifted verbatim from a hoax email that outlines a dubious "cough CPR" procedure for heart attack victims. Notably, earlier versions of the email did not include the "Susie and Sherry" story.

In any case, such embellishments are completely unnecessary and detract from the underlying message. A problem with email forwards is that the core information tends to become garbled or diluted as various individuals decide to add to or modify the message as it travels through cyberspace. For example, the current version implies that stumbling is potentially a key element in diagnosing a stroke. However, there is nothing about stumbling mentioned in the Stroke Association report. Although the NSA does identify loss of balance and difficulty walking as potential stroke symptoms, stumbling alone is hardly a valid indicator of an impending stroke.

This unfortunate tendency for messages to mutate as they travel means that it may not always be a good idea to pass on even those rare email forwards that contain factual and verifiable information. Also, as explained above, the misuse of such information due to false assumptions or lack of understanding can have dangerous repercussions. If you do decide to forward this email, I would suggest that you first remove the superfluous information it contains. Secondly, include a warning about the danger of not seeking medical attention just because a person can successfully perform the three steps. Thirdly, I think it would also be a good idea to add a link to the original source so that recipients can check the information for themselves. The link to the American Stroke Association report is included below:

Write-up by Brett M.Christensen