Know to Be Fast

Recognizing stroke symptoms can save lives.


Randy Rhea, M.D., had been a family physician in Roanoke for nearly four decades. On a random spring Saturday, despite not feeling “quite right,” he pressed on. With a full schedule of patients to see, he blamed his symptoms on being worn out.

But while examining his first patient, he couldn’t quite find the words to communicate. “They just wouldn’t come out,” he recalls. Lucky for Rhea, his nurse, Pam Hartman, knew stroke symptoms when she saw them. She immediately called 911. 

He was soon at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital where the ER and stroke teams whisked him into the stroke trauma room after a CT scan. They well knew that his best shot of recovery was tPA, a “clot-busting” drug, which he was given after his blood pressure came down. 

Forty percent of people who’ve experienced a stroke respond to tPA and two percent make a full recovery. Rhea is one of the two percent and has completely recovered. But he cautions that “the saying ‘time is brain’ really is true. Tissue is lost quickly. If you recognize the signs of a stroke, don’t delay. Don’t feel silly about calling for help. Without the support that I received, my story may have had a different outcome.”


Every 40 seconds in the U.S., someone has a stroke. It can happen to anyone at any time. Rhea’s best advice? “Pay attention to how you feel, especially if you are over 40. Take care of yourself, and don’t brush off anything.”

BE FAST offers sound advice on recognizing the signs of a stroke. It stands for: 

Balance (unsteady)

Eyesight changes

Face drooping

Arms (weak or numb)

Speech difficulty

Time (act quickly)

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