Stroke is a time-critical medical emergency that needs urgent medical attention. On the Northern Rivers of NSW, the federal electorate of Page is ranked four out of Australia’s top ten hotspots for stroke prevalence, with 3,960 residents living with the effects of stroke.

Local resident and young survivor of stroke, Jess Thodey, is calling on her community to learn the F.A.S.T. signs of stroke to save the life of a friend, family member or neighbour.

The Stroke Foundation says the F.A.S.T. test is a simple way we can all learn and remember the signs of stroke:

  1. Face – check the person’s face. Has their mouth drooped?
  2. Arms – can they lift both arms?
  3. Speech – is their speech slurred? Do they understand you?
  4. Time is critical – if you see any of these signs call triple zero (000) immediately.

Jess Thodey gets a visit from her younger siblings in hospital after her recovery from stroke.

Jess Thodey’s story

Jess was a normal, active 16-year old with no family history or risk factors for stroke when she developed a severe headache one morning before school.

By second period, she was unable to speak coherently. Jess’ parents picked her up from school and took her to the local GP. Worried about her broken and disjointed speech, the GP sent Jess to the Lismore Base Hospital where an MRI showed two large clots in her brain. Jess was diagnosed with a severe stroke.

Jess was quickly transferred to the pediatric ICU at Gold Coast University Hospital where she spent twelve days. This was a scary time for Jess’ family, with her younger siblings left at home two hours away.

Jess suffered seizures while in intensive care, but recovered well and commenced inpatient rehabilitation for her speech and short-term memory.

After seven weeks, Jess was discharged home. Months later, she was able to return to school where she graduated only one year later than planned. She worked hard to return to competitive sport, and six years on, Jess is studying at university and very grateful for the quick diagnosis that saved her life.

Her mother Sarah Thodey said, ‘Jess’s outcome would have been very different if her disturbed speech hadn’t been taken seriously, and I’m very grateful, every day, for awareness of these serious symptoms.’

FAST stroke

The Stroke Foundation

Know the signs of stroke

The Stroke Foundation says a new survey found only 28 percent of Page residents could recognise facial droop as a sign of stroke unprompted.

NSW State Manager Rhian Paton-Kelly said these numbers were incredibly concerning as an estimated 231 new strokes were expected to be experienced by the people of Page this year.

‘The first step in ensuring better outcomes from stroke is getting to hospital quickly, and that means recognising the F.A.S.T. signs and calling triple zero (000) immediately,’ said Ms Paton-Kelly.

‘When a stroke strikes the brain, it kills up to 1.9 million brain cells per minute, but quick treatment can stop this damage. Time saved in calling an ambulance and accessing treatment for stroke is brain saved.

‘Stroke can strike anyone of any age, even babies and children can have strokes,’ she said.

Ms Paton-Kelly emphasised that although stroke was one of this country’s biggest killers and a leading cause of disability, stroke can be also prevented and successfully treated.

‘I urge everyone to find out more about stroke and learn the F.A.S.T. message, share it with your friends, family and colleagues,’ she said. ‘It could save a life.’

Stroke Foundation has released a video to help people learn the F.A.S.T. message. Watch below: