Quick action by son saves mom having a stroke while driving

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- The American Stroke Association estimates one in six people will experience stroke in their lifetime. Sunday is recognized as World Stroke Day. It’s an effort to create lives free from stroke through education and awareness.

Teri Ackerson is a registered nurse, marathon runner and busy mom. In generally good health, she says she never expected to experience a life-threatening medical emergency behind the wheel of her car.

“[My son] Parker and I were driving home and I loss complete use and feeling of my left arm and face, and my ability to speak. Thank goodness I had just gone through a stoplight and I was able to pull the car over,” said Ackerson.

What her 16-year-old son did next may have saved her life.

“Because my son knew F.A.S.T. And the signs and symptoms of stroke, he had me at a primary care center between seven minutes of my symptom onset,” she explained.

Teri`s stroke was caused by an undiagnosed congenital heart defect. Her condition is not preventable, but 80% of strokes are; and heart health has a lot to do with decreasing your odds.

“The number one risk factor for stroke is high blood pressure. Visiting the physician annually is one of the most important things you can do as well to keep on top of things,” said Ackerson.

In two thirds of cases stroke is identified by a bystander. Using the acronym F.A.S.T can help you know if someone nearby is having a stroke.

“If someone’s face is droopy ask them to smile. Can they smile with both sides of their face? A is for arm, ask them to raise their arms up. See if one is weaker, can they even raise them at all? S is for speech, is their speech slured or are they having a hard time finding their words, are they making sense to you? And then the T is simply, if they have any of those symptoms it`s time to call 911,” she explained.

And on world stroke day, many survivors like Teri are reflecting on their experiences and using them to possibly help others avoid similar emergencies.

“That`s what world stroke day is all about is just bringing awareness, advocacy and education to the community,” said Ackerson.

The American Heart Association is working for better advocacy for stroke. Visit heart.org to learn how you can help in the fight for stroke prevention.