Recognizing the signs of a stroke fast could mean the difference between life and death. The Heart and Stroke Foundation today launched a new campaign called "FAST", playing on that word to reinforce what a stroke looks like and what to do about it.  It's a simple acronym that covers all the signs of a stroke: is your face drooping, are you able to raise your arms, is your speech slurred and, most importantly, take the time to call 911 right away.

As a nurse studying emergency response and strokes, it is the ultimate irony that Patrice Lindsay would have a stroke herself.  She was 38 at the time, rocking her 2-year-old to sleep.

‘My husband came running upstairs,’ recalls Patrice Lindsay, as she sits in the Ottawa office of the Heart and Stroke Foundation, ‘and I was trying to say the word "stroke. It came out as something else; I couldn’t' say the word.’

Lindsay was in denial at first but she had all the typical symptoms.

‘I had the facial droop, I wasn’t' able to speak, I kept lifting my left arm and it was doing this,’ she says, as she demonstrates her arm flopping to her side.

Knowing the signs, within minutes she was at a stroke centre, getting treated. 

But one-third of all stroke victims in Canada wait too long for help.  Clot-busting drugs only work within the first 3 or 4 hours to correct that loss of blow flow to the brain.  The longer people delay, the worse the outcome. The Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation hopes to change those outcomes with a new campaign.  It's called "FAST".  The “F” is for “Face”; is your face drooping? “A” is for “Arm”; can you raise them both.  “S” is for “Speech”; is it slurred.  And “T” is for “Time”, call 911 right away.

‘We’ve simplified the messaging people will see,’ says Ian Joiner, the Director of Stroke with the Heart and Stroke Foundation, ‘and hopefully it will help them remember more about a stroke.’

At the same time, they are running powerful promotional videos that show what a stroke looks like to someone witnesses it and someone experiencing it.

Since her stroke, Patrice Lindsay has become even more passionate about her work in this field.  She knows firsthand the importance of a “FAST” response.

‘Luckily, I made a good recovery,” she says.

Patrice was young when she had her stroke.  According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, strokes are on the rise among that age group of 20 to 49 years old. Getting this message out becomes even more critical.