BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - By the time you're done reading this article, at least three people in America will have had a stroke. They happen every 40 seconds in this country, according to the American Stroke Association, and women are more likely to suffer a stroke than to be diagnosed with breast cancer. That's why it's critical to know the symptoms.
Lonnie Seals, Sr., 66, admits he didn't know them when he suffered a stroke eight weeks ago while fishing in Baton Rouge.
"Thank goodness I wasn't fishing alone," he said. "If I would have been there by myself, I might not be sitting here right now."
After a week in a coma, he's relearning simple tasks that used to be automatic.
"Sometimes as I'm talking to someone in the middle of the sentence I'll forget what I want to say," he added.
Roxane Bingham leads a stroke recovery support group at Baton Rouge Rehab Hospital. She's also a survivor, but of a heart attack. It happened two years ago in Tiger Stadium.
"I started to experience chest pains when we walked down the hill to go see the band at 4:30 and ignored those signs and symptoms. I knew something was wrong and that something was going on - it was different - but I had to be at the LSU/Alabama game," she said.
She uses her experience to teach others that warning signs matter. But they're different for stroke, which is a blockage to the brain.
Supermodel Claudia Mason wishes she'd paid attention to her body during her stroke.
"I was in a jazz dance class, something I've done my whole life," Mason said in an interview from New York City. "And (I was) doing a very familiar move, throwing my head around à la Beyonce…and didn't have many aches or pains, nothing unusual after class and an uneventful night's sleep. The next morning went to an audition and when I got there I had the worst headache of my entire life, my visual field was going in and out, blurry vision, and I just thought ‘Hmm, I must be having a migraine.'"
Blurry vision on just one side of the face is a telltale sign of stroke…if you think FAST:
F – Face Drooping
: Does one side of the face droop, or is it numb?
A – Arm Weakness
: Is one arm weak or numb?
S – Speech Difficulty
: Is speech slurred, are they unable to speak, or hard to understand?
T – Time to call 911
: If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if they go away, call 9-1-1 and get them to the hospital immediately.
"The treatment that's given is typically a clot buster, something called tPA. It's not given to all strokes, but you wouldn't know until you come into the hospital. So the faster we're able to give the medication, the more likely that people have minimal or no deficit at three months, and even longer afterwards," said Dr. Carolyn Brockington, director of the Stroke Center at Mount Sinai St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital.
Seals hopes to be fishing again soon, and now knows the warning signs in case he has to think FAST. He also hopes to join the stroke support group, which meets on the fourth Thursday of each month at Baton Rouge Rehab Hospital. It's open to any stroke survivor along with caregivers.
Contact Roxane Bingham for more information: 225-231-3123 or