Learn to recognise the signs of a stroke and act quickly

Use the FAST test to identify the signs of a stroke.
Use the FAST test to identify the signs of a stroke.

WHEN Helen Safstrom was 20 years old she fell off her horse, ended with a brain injury and consequently a stroke.

A stroke can occur from a blood clot or bleeding,

Helen had a right side brain haemorrhage and had to learn to walk again.

Doctors told her she would probably never walk again, but for Helen, that wasn't an issue.

After spending three weeks unconscious and six months in rehabilitation she defied the odds and got back to what she knew was some kind of normality.

"Now I know how people are feeling and where they're coming from," she said.

"Since my head injury, I know how incredibly frustrating it was when I knew I wanted to do something but my body didn't read the message," Helen said.

"It changed my whole life as I had to learn to do everything again and I was frustrated because my body wouldn't work properly.

"My personality also changed and my friends left because they didn't know how to cope with someone who had a dribble and all the other things I was doing."

Helen has a nursing background so it helped her to understand what it takes to cope with a brain injury, and she recently completed training to become a StrokeSafe Ambassador.

"I belong to Speak Easy Toastmasters Club and through them I've built up my confidence to go out and talk to people. If I can help one person from having a stroke then that's what it's all about.

"Richard Bourner and I want people to be one step ahead and read the signs and symptoms of stroke," Helen said.

Helen pushed and pushed to get her nursing registration back.

The deal was that if she got her registration back, she could go back to work and she did both.

Richard and Helen visit groups educating people on the signs and symptoms and prevention of stroke.

"A lot of groups came up to us at the seniors' expo and asked what we talk about."

For more information on the StrokeSafe Ambassador program, phone StrokeLine on 1800 787 653 or visit

The FAST test

  • Face: Check their face. Has their mouth drooped?
  • Arm: Can they lift both arms?
  • Speech: Is their speech slurred? Do they understand you?
  • Time is critical: If you see any of these signs phone 000 immediately

Topics:  fraser coast senior matters signs stroke sue downey symptoms

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