'I spotted my husband's stroke after TV ad'
Clare Smith will never forget the fear in her husband Gary's eyes last July when, without warning, he found himself unable to move his right arm and leg.
His right eye and mouth had 'sunk' and he could hardly speak a word.
Gary (37), a truck driver from Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, was looking forward to a day's golfing when he was struck down with terrifying symptoms that left him a prisoner in his own body.
However, thanks to quick-thinking Clare -- and a television advertising campaign -- he was rushed to Wexford General Hospital where he was given a clot-busting drug that may have saved his life and spared him from severe disability.
Clare recalled: "He did not know what was happening but there was something telling me he had a stroke. I had seen the stroke symptoms on television."
She recalled the Irish Heart Foundation's 'FAST' campaign, aimed at raising awareness and instantly called 999.
Gary, who was treated within two-and-a-half hours, has battled to return to health since and is now back driving.
"I know if it wasn't for my wife's fast reaction I might not be here talking to you," he said.
The advertising campaign urges people who witness signs of stroke to act FAST -- which stands for Face (is the person's face drooping?), Arms (can the person raise both arms and keep them there?), Speech (are they slurring their words?), and Time (call 999 immediately if the answer to any of the previous three questions is yes).
A new study has shown that the number of people suffering potential stroke symptoms increased by 87.5pc during the three weeks of the television and radio campaign last June.
The numbers declined in the two weeks after the campaign ended and returned to regular levels by July, said researcher Dr Anne Hickey of the Royal College of Surgeons.
Dr Hickey said around 10,000 people suffer a stroke in Ireland every year but if people know the signs, the patient will be treated as an emergency.
Chris Macey of the Irish Heart Foundation said the campaign is now being run again but it needs financial support.
"In spending €250,000 on the first phase of the campaign we had to hand over more than €50,000 to the Exchequer in VAT payments.
"At the same time, the campaign has saved lives and saved the State money by reducing the need for nursing home places for stroke patients."