FAST action helps mum

An Auckland mum has been reunited with the “angels” in blue who helped save her life after she had a severe stroke while driving.

Now she’s had the chance to meet and thank police staff who sprang into action to get her to hospital, in time for essential treatment.

“It’s a miracle. We had lots of little angels that day,” Angela said.

“Without getting there so quickly I definitely would have severe disability or may not even been alive. ”

You can watch a Newshub story about Angela’s amazing experience here.

Angela is sharing her story as the annual stroke awareness FAST campaign begins – but with a different twist this year.

As well as the familiar Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty message, the T in Fast now stands for Take action instead of Time.

And Angela says that’s certainly what police did that day.

Angela had just left the gym and was driving home alone along Morrin Road in Stonefields.

“The next thing I remember is sitting in my car which was straddled across a lane of traffic, grabbing across my body to close the front door which had flung open while car horns were being beeped at me,” she says.

Angela had experienced a stroke but neither she nor a woman she crashed into knew it.

“She walked up behind me yelling, and asked me what I was doing scraping my car along hers.”

When police arrived at the scene of the crash, Sergeant Chris Painter realized the urgency immediately.

“The first thing I thought of was stroke,” Chris says. “I got her to squeeze my hands and I could tell one side was weaker than the other.”

An ambulance on the way hadn’t found the crash site, so Chris radioed in the exact location to get them there faster – minutes that made a crucial difference.

Chris then helped Angela stay conscious, tilted her head back and checked her airways.

A probationary constable sat in the back of Angela’s car, poised to administer oxygen if needed.

Thanks to Chris’ quick-thinking the ambulance arrived shortly afterwards and rushed Angela to hospital for a clot retrieval operation.

“The surgery involved a catheter being inserted in my groin, pushed up through my body, through my heart and into my brain to suck the clot out,” Angela says.

“It took 15 minutes and saved my life.”

Incredibly, Angela was released from hospital 48 hours later. While movement returned quickly, speech took a lot longer and Angela still has some after-effects.

But she’s been able to return to work and caring for her kids, one of whom has special needs.

“The speed I received medical attention and the operation saved my life and its quality,” she says.

The stroke was caused by a hole in Angela’s heart she didn’t know about, and has since had closed.

“I knew about the FAST campaign, and I know a couple of people who’d had strokes. My Mum had a few TIAs but I didn’t think a stroke would happen to me.

“You don’t think of it as a young person’s issue. Even after I’d had the stroke, it wasn’t going through my mind at all.”

Now Angela wants everyone to learn the FAST message, and especially to take action immediately.

“My message is around speed. The key thing is to ring the ambulance as soon as possible.”

Stroke Foundation CEO Mark Vivian says Angela’s story is a perfect illustration of how Taking action can make a difference.

“We found from the last two years that a lot of people had learned the main symptoms of stroke from FAST, but we want more people to realise it’s a medical emergency – a brain attack.

The FAST campaign will have a slightly different look too, with the T encased in a green circle.

“Green for go – go and call 111 immediately,” Mark Vivian says.

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