There’s an app for that. It’s a cute catchphrase in our era of uber-smart phones, but Charity Grable is living proof that it’s true – and that an app just might be able to help in times of debilitating crisis.

When the 44-year-old mother of three started experiencing the warning signs of a stroke recently, she turned to the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s F.A.S.T. app, and it helped her communicate to co-workers to get the emergency care she needed.

“Had I not had it on my phone I would not have known what was happening,” said Grable, who had a series of mini-strokes while at work. These strokes also are called transient ischemic attacks, or TIAs. “I tell people at work you have to have the app on your phone. You don’t know when you will need it for yourself or someone else.”

Grable’s family has a history of cardiovascular issues. She became an avid AHA volunteer after helping her father with a myriad of health issues and discovering last year he had peripheral artery disease, or PAD, a lesser known cardiovascular disease in which plaque builds up in the extremities, including the leg arteries. The condition caused doctors to amputate both of his legs.

Charity Grable with her husband, daughters, son and granddaughter.

Charity Grable with her husband, daughters, son and granddaughter.

But neither her father’s experiences nor her volunteering with the AHA were what tuned her into the warning signs of stroke. She was at an AHA conference in May when she learned about and downloaded the app, hoping to have it for her father, just in case.

But by August, she was the one who needed it.

She experienced an odd, intermittent tingling in her left arm and leg for a few days. Then, on Aug. 17, she woke up feeling strange at 2:30 a.m. three hours before she normally left her home for work. She felt a stabbing pain above her right eye that came and went, and then a numbness in her face that did the same. She also was dizzy, but all of it passed within 20 minutes.

“Just before work, the app on my phone caught my eye. It has a video explaining the symptoms,” she said. “But by then, I felt fine and thought I needed to go to work.”

Just minutes after arriving and during a routine morning meeting, the symptoms came rushing back. “I told a co-worker, ‘someone has to call 911. I think I’m having a stroke’.”

By 6:30 a.m., she was in an ambulance, and the company’s nurse was able to relay all her symptoms.

“I just really want people to be aware of it,” said Grable. “It can happen any time anywhere.”

The AHA developed the F.A.S.T. app, available in English or Spanish from iTunes and from Google Play, as part of a stroke campaign with the Ad Council. The aim is to make the sudden signs and symptoms of a stroke easy to remember:

F – Face Drooping
A – Arm Weakness
S – Speech Difficulty
T – Time to call 911

But there are other signs of stroke that are just as important to remember, and ones that Grable said she saw pop up when she hit the F.A.S.T. app on her phone. Those signs are:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, lack of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

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