Volunteers paint Graffiti Alley to bring awareness to stroke symptoms

Ahead of World Stroke Day on Sunday, volunteers took to Baltimore’s iconic Graffiti Alley to bring awareness to the signs of stroke.

Some volunteers used stencils, while others painted hearts freehand in addition to the acronym FAST.

“Face, arms, speech, and then, time — the most important part of all of it is to get to care or the hospital as soon as possible,” said Dr. William Ashley, a neurosurgeon with LifeBridge Health.

Specifically, Ashley said people should be aware of facial changes, arm weakness and changes in speech.

“Nowadays, we have ways to treat stroke that are almost like cures,” Ashley said. “In the past, we had medicines to help clear up clots. But now, we can actually go into the brain and remove the clots — that’s something I do.”

Brooke Bognanni suffered a stroke in 2016. Her mother recognized the symptoms right away and her parents rushed her to the hospital. She was 42 at the time.

“It was a blood clot to my right brain. I was getting ready to power walk. I bent down to tie my shoes and when I came up, I had the FAST symptoms — facial drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulty,” Bognanni said. “It can affect people of all ages. It isn’t just an older person’s issue. We think of it as something that affects our grandparents.”

The American Heart Association hopes the graffiti the volunteers painted will bring awareness about the warning signs of stroke.

“It’s a great community event to give survivors an opportunity to do something that’s therapeutic and tell their story, and then, we take the images we create here and put them out on social media as a way to create awareness,” said Tracy Brazelton, executive director of the American Heart Association’s Baltimore and Greater Maryland division.

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