Sept. 8, 2022 – Television news anchor Julie Chin is recovering after having stroke-like symptoms live on air earlier this month. Chin, an anchor for NBC local news affiliate KJRH in Tulsa, OK, was reporting on the NASA Artemis I launch when she suddenly had trouble talking or reading words on a teleprompter.
Thanks to quick action from her colleagues who called 911, she was rushed to a nearby hospital where she had a series of tests.
“First I lost partial vision in one eye. A little bit later my hand and arm went numb. Then, I knew I was in big trouble when my mouth would not speak the words that were right in front of me on the teleprompter,” she wrote on Facebook the next day.
“My doctors believe I had the beginnings of a stroke on the air,” said Chin, who is now recovering at home.
When a News Anchor Becomes the News
The video of Chin struggling for words is bringing a lot of attention to this medical emergency. It shows how unexpectedly, and rapidly, stroke-like symptoms can start. It’s also a good reminder to anyone who thinks they or someone else might be having a stroke that they need to act fast.
“It was a scary event for her, but I think it’s a good opportunity for us at the American Heart Association to remind people what the signs of a stroke are,” says Mitchell Elkind, MD.
Larry Goldstein, MD, chair of neurology at University of Kentucky HealthCare in Lexington, agrees.
“Anything that raises awareness is a good thing,” he says. “This event was a good example of someone experiencing speech changes. Although her articulation was good, she had a real word-finding problem.”
People who witness a stroke play an important role. Sometimes the person having the stroke can’t call for help, or the stroke doesn’t let them realize they’re having a problem, says Elkind, the Heart Association’s chief clinical science officer.
“That’s why it’s important for friends, co-workers, or even people on the street to recognize the signs of a stroke.”
Remember the Signs
If you suspect a stroke, remember B.E.F.A.S.T. It stands for Balance; Eyes (loss of vision); Face (drooping); Arms (one arm drifts downward); Speech (slurred or confused); and Time and Terrible headache.
The Heart Association recommends people consider at least F.A.S.T. because it’s easier to remember, even though balance and eye problems can occur, Elkind says.
Goldstein says the balance and eye issues can identify another 14% of people having a stroke. But no matter how you remember the signs, it’s important to ask fast, he says.
In Chin’s case, a garbled text she sent her husband after she got off the air was another clue: “I need help. Something is not Run today. My work won’t work is working my help my.” Alarmed, her husband rushed to meet her at the hospital.
About 795,000 Americans have a stroke every year, the CDC reports. More than 600,000 of these are first strokes. More than 150,000 Americans died from a stroke in 2019, according to 2022 fact sheet from the Heart Association. That translates to one death from a stroke every 3.5 minutes in the United States.
About 80% to 90% of strokes are preventable, so people should consider making lifestyle and other changes to reduce their risk, Goldstein recommends. Because “once a stroke happens, it’s a catch-up [situation].”
For people hesitant to seek medical help right away, Elkind points out that specialists have effective treatments for strokes, but they must be given shortly after signs begin. “‘Don’t ignore it’ would be my recommendation.”
“When it comes to anything medical, if you think you need help, if something is really not right, don’t be afraid to ask for help,” Chin said in an interview on the Today show on Wednesday.
“I hope this story helps somebody else,” she said.