If a Baton Rouge hip-hop duo’s new music video goes viral, it could actually save lives.
“The F.A.S.T. Song,” a hip-hop track written to teach listeners to recognize when someone is suffering a stroke, was written by Dr. Rani Whitfield, a Baton Rouge physician known as “Tha Hip-Hop Doc,” and south Louisiana rapper Dee-1.
“You’re talking about the No. 1 preventable disability worldwide,” Whitfield said. “Every two seconds somebody has a stroke.”
The No. 5 cause of death in the United States, stroke kills about 129,000 people a year, according to the American Stroke Association.
Strokes occur when a blood vessel carrying oxygen to the brain is either blocked or bursts, according to the association. The brain cannot get all the blood and oxygen it needs, and brain cells die. Stroke victims often suffer partial paralysis, vision problems, loss of speech and other impairments.
While older people are most at risk of stroke, it can affect anyone with sickle cell anemia or high blood pressure or anyone who abuses certain drugs. Strokes even occur in the womb.
“Stroke does not discriminate,” Whitfield said. “It’s a bad thing.”
Whitfield and Dee-1’s (hopefully) viral video teaches the basics of stroke and how to recognize it so the victim can get to a hospital quickly.
With hip-hop beats blaring, an ambulance races up to the emergency department at Baton Rouge General Medical Center. Both wearing hospital scrubs, Dee-1 and Whitfield jump out of the ambulance’s back door and posture for the camera.
“Together, we’re gonna fight,” raps Dee-1, his long dreadlocks moving with the beat, “because one out of six people has a stroke in their life.”
Throughout the song, the chorus repeats: “If someone has a stroke near you, the F.A.S.T. song tells you what to do.”
Using the F.A.S.T. acronym, they teach you to remember a few key points:
Face drooping: If one side of the face droops or goes numb, it may be a sign of a stroke.
Arm weakness: One weak or numb arm may signal a stroke. Also, the victim may not be able to raise both arms.
Speech difficulty: Slurred speech or loss of speech are both common to strokes.
Time to call 911: Call for help immediately and keep track of the time — doctors need to know when the stroke occurred.
Over five days, Whitfield and Dee-1 wrote and recorded the song. The following week, they shot the video at Baton Rouge General’s Bluebonnet campus.
They completed the project quickly to support the stroke association during World Stroke Day in late October.
The association’s F.A.S.T. campaign was directed at people over 35 — not necessarily hip-hop and rap fans — but Whitfield wanted to create something catchy that all ages could appreciate.
“That’s the thing with hip-hop,” Whitfield said. “Sometimes, there are hip-hop songs that I don’t necessarily like the lyrics, but the beat is so good.”
And Whitfield said getting the catchy riff stuck in someone’s head may help save someone’s life.
“There is a potential for damage, destruction and devastation, not just for the patient but for the families and caregivers of those who suffer stroke,” he said. “But also, there is a potential for recovery and prevention.”
In most cases, stroke can be prevented by keeping your heart healthy. Maintaining a healthy weight and watching your important numbers — blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar — can help lessen your risk of having a stroke.
When a stroke does occur, the effects of it can be reversed if the victim is hospitalized quickly. If given within three hours, one medicine can dissolve the clot that caused the stroke. A clot-removing technology is also regularly used now.
“You have a very short window of time to get to the hospital,” Whitfield said. “What I see in my practice is that people are scared when things happen to them that they aren’t familiar with.”
That’s where the song comes in.
“Educate yourself,” Dee-1 raps in the first verse. “You can save somebody’s life.”