'His face was drooping': Auckland woman's quick-thinking saves husband's life

An Auckland man was holidaying on the other side of the world when his wife noticed a daunting series of symptoms affecting her husband's face and body.

Tony and Angela Herbert were on holiday in Bruges, Belgium, in August when Tony showed signs something was very wrong.

"His eyes were dead, his face was drooping and he couldn't lift one arm. His speech was an awful noise. He had this scared look in his eyes," Angela said.

"He was trying to put one on his pajamas and he couldn't get one leg through. I saw him trying to lift his leg but he couldn't do it."

Angela heard a voice in her head saying, 'FAST' after seeing an ad on television and Facebook.

"I said smile at me, lift your arm, speak to me.

"I knew straightaway it was a stroke so I ran to the concierge for help. An ambulance was there in 10 minutes and he was in the intensive care stroke unit within half an hour.

"That FAST message saved my husband's life."

Tony and Angela Herbert were in Belgium when Angela recognised the stroke symptoms.
Tony and Angela Herbert were in Belgium when Angela recognised the stroke symptoms. Photo credit: Supplied.

Tony and Angela shared their story exclusively with Newshub to raise awareness around the FAST acronym.  

FAST stands for Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Take Action, call 111 immediately.

It highlights the need for immediate action if someone sees any of the signs of stroke. The quicker a stroke patient gets to hospital, the better their chances of recovery.

Tony's speech and movement returned the next day and the husband and wife of 46 years are back home now and recovering well.

Tony has had a scan at Auckland Hospital, and a specialist confirmed that Tony's bleed had been "huge" and he was very lucky.

"We are having a grandchild in March and it was like an angel calling down to Tony, 'you're not going yet.'"

The couple is also grateful for the timing of the stroke.

"If he'd had his stroke in his sleep I probably would have found him dead the next morning," Angela said.

Tony says he was fit and well, and he has no idea what caused the stroke, "but it had been a long day, with the stress of driving on foreign roads."

Stroke Foundation CEO Mark Vivian says it's rewarding to hear Tony's story.

"We extremely pleased to hear he's doing so well, and this is further evidence that knowing FAST can be a life-saver."

FAST is a joint campaign between the Ministry of Health, Health Promotion Agency and Stroke Foundation.