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Kids learn stroke signs

  • In this Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014, photo, third-grader Andrea Esteban tries to imitate the droopy smile of a stroke victim at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx borough of New York. The hospital teaches children to recognize stroke and get victims to a hospital quickly. (AP Photo/Jim Fitzgerald)

    In this Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014, photo, third-grader Andrea Esteban tries to imitate the droopy smile of a stroke victim at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx borough of New York. The hospital teaches children to recognize stroke and get victims to a hospital quickly. (AP Photo/Jim Fitzgerald)

  • In this Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014, photo, third-grader Andrea Esteban tries to imitate the droopy smile of a stroke victim at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx borough of New York. The hospital teaches children to recognize stroke and get victims to a hospital quickly. (AP Photo/Jim Fitzgerald)

    In this Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014, photo, third-grader Andrea Esteban tries to imitate the droopy smile of a stroke victim at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx borough of New York. The hospital teaches children to recognize stroke and get victims to a hospital quickly. (AP Photo/Jim Fitzgerald)

  • In this Feb. 25, 2014 photo, third-graders, from left, Hunter Thomas, Matthew Velez, Sebastian Mendez, Jayden Gonzalez and Elijah Farias examine a plastic model of a brain at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx borough of New York. The hospital teaches children to recognize stroke and get victims to a hospital quickly. (AP Photo/Jim Fitzgerald)

    In this Feb. 25, 2014 photo, third-graders, from left, Hunter Thomas, Matthew Velez, Sebastian Mendez, Jayden Gonzalez and Elijah Farias examine a plastic model of a brain at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx borough of New York. The hospital teaches children to recognize stroke and get victims to a hospital quickly. (AP Photo/Jim Fitzgerald)

  • In this Feb. 25, 2014 photo, third-graders, from left, Hunter Thomas, Matthew Velez, Sebastian Mendez, Jayden Gonzalez and Elijah Farias examine a plastic model of a brain at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx borough of New York. The hospital teaches children to recognize stroke and get victims to a hospital quickly. (AP Photo/Jim Fitzgerald)

    In this Feb. 25, 2014 photo, third-graders, from left, Hunter Thomas, Matthew Velez, Sebastian Mendez, Jayden Gonzalez and Elijah Farias examine a plastic model of a brain at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx borough of New York. The hospital teaches children to recognize stroke and get victims to a hospital quickly. (AP Photo/Jim Fitzgerald)

  • In this Feb. 25, 2014 photo, pencil erasers in the shape of the human brain lie on a table at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx borough of New York. The erasers were given to third-graders who attended a class that teaches them to recognize stroke and get victims to a hospital quickly. (AP Photo/Jim Fitzgerald)

    In this Feb. 25, 2014 photo, pencil erasers in the shape of the human brain lie on a table at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx borough of New York. The erasers were given to third-graders who attended a class that teaches them to recognize stroke and get victims to a hospital quickly. (AP Photo/Jim Fitzgerald)

  • In this Feb. 25, 2014 photo, pencil erasers in the shape of the human brain lie on a table at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx borough of New York. The erasers were given to third-graders who attended a class that teaches them to recognize stroke and get victims to a hospital quickly. (AP Photo/Jim Fitzgerald)

    In this Feb. 25, 2014 photo, pencil erasers in the shape of the human brain lie on a table at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx borough of New York. The erasers were given to third-graders who attended a class that teaches them to recognize stroke and get victims to a hospital quickly. (AP Photo/Jim Fitzgerald)

  • In this Feb. 25, 2014 photo, third-graders, from left, Jan Carlos Medina, Matthew Velez and Natalie Mieses take in a class that teaches them about stroke on Feb. 25, 2014, at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, N.Y. The hospital educates children to recognize stroke and get victims to a hospital quickly. (AP Photo/Jim Fitzgerald)

    In this Feb. 25, 2014 photo, third-graders, from left, Jan Carlos Medina, Matthew Velez and Natalie Mieses take in a class that teaches them about stroke on Feb. 25, 2014, at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, N.Y. The hospital educates children to recognize stroke and get victims to a hospital quickly. (AP Photo/Jim Fitzgerald)

  • In this Feb. 25, 2014 photo, third-graders, from left, Jan Carlos Medina, Matthew Velez and Natalie Mieses take in a class that teaches them about stroke on Feb. 25, 2014, at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, N.Y. The hospital educates children to recognize stroke and get victims to a hospital quickly. (AP Photo/Jim Fitzgerald)

    In this Feb. 25, 2014 photo, third-graders, from left, Jan Carlos Medina, Matthew Velez and Natalie Mieses take in a class that teaches them about stroke on Feb. 25, 2014, at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, N.Y. The hospital educates children to recognize stroke and get victims to a hospital quickly. (AP Photo/Jim Fitzgerald)

  • In this Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014, photo, third-grader Andrea Esteban tries to imitate the droopy smile of a stroke victim at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx borough of New York. The hospital teaches children to recognize stroke and get victims to a hospital quickly. (AP Photo/Jim Fitzgerald)
  • In this Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014, photo, third-grader Andrea Esteban tries to imitate the droopy smile of a stroke victim at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx borough of New York. The hospital teaches children to recognize stroke and get victims to a hospital quickly. (AP Photo/Jim Fitzgerald)
  • In this Feb. 25, 2014 photo, third-graders, from left, Hunter Thomas, Matthew Velez, Sebastian Mendez, Jayden Gonzalez and Elijah Farias examine a plastic model of a brain at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx borough of New York. The hospital teaches children to recognize stroke and get victims to a hospital quickly. (AP Photo/Jim Fitzgerald)
  • In this Feb. 25, 2014 photo, third-graders, from left, Hunter Thomas, Matthew Velez, Sebastian Mendez, Jayden Gonzalez and Elijah Farias examine a plastic model of a brain at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx borough of New York. The hospital teaches children to recognize stroke and get victims to a hospital quickly. (AP Photo/Jim Fitzgerald)
  • In this Feb. 25, 2014 photo, pencil erasers in the shape of the human brain lie on a table at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx borough of New York. The erasers were given to third-graders who attended a class that teaches them to recognize stroke and get victims to a hospital quickly. (AP Photo/Jim Fitzgerald)
  • In this Feb. 25, 2014 photo, pencil erasers in the shape of the human brain lie on a table at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx borough of New York. The erasers were given to third-graders who attended a class that teaches them to recognize stroke and get victims to a hospital quickly. (AP Photo/Jim Fitzgerald)
  • In this Feb. 25, 2014 photo, third-graders, from left, Jan Carlos Medina, Matthew Velez and Natalie Mieses take in a class that teaches them about stroke on Feb. 25, 2014, at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, N.Y. The hospital educates children to recognize stroke and get victims to a hospital quickly. (AP Photo/Jim Fitzgerald)
  • In this Feb. 25, 2014 photo, third-graders, from left, Jan Carlos Medina, Matthew Velez and Natalie Mieses take in a class that teaches them about stroke on Feb. 25, 2014, at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, N.Y. The hospital educates children to recognize stroke and get victims to a hospital quickly. (AP Photo/Jim Fitzgerald)

NEW YORK — Andrea Esteban tried to smile with half her face, crossing her eyes in the process, and her third-grade classmates giggled. Matthew Velez struggled to speak, “Luh, luh, uh, gronk,” and the kids erupted in laughter.

But the funny faces, the gibberish and some arm flapping were all part of a serious lesson to help kids learn the telltale signs of a stroke by imitating them. The idea is to enlist children, particularly those who may live with older relatives, as an army of eyes to help recognize the warning signs, get help for victims more quickly and hopefully save lives.

“If my mom has a stroke, I’ll know what to do,” said 10-year-old Madison Montes. “Run to the phone and call 911.”

The experimental health education program at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx is aimed at the most crucial factor when it comes to a stroke: time.

Each year, about 795,000 Americans have a stroke and about 130,000 die. Some are caused by bleeding in the brain, but the vast majority is caused by a clot that blocks blood flow, starving brain cells. The drug TPA can dissolve those clots and reduce disability but only if it’s given within three to four hours of the first symptoms, and the sooner the better. Yet only about 5 percent of patients receive it, in part because many stroke sufferers don’t get to the hospital in time for testing to tell if they’re a candidate.

The early warning signs include a droopy side of the face, slurred or strange speech, and the inability to keep arms raised.

“There’s a pretty good chance some children might witness a parent or a grandparent having a stroke,” said Jim Baranski, CEO of the National Stroke Association. “So if they’re armed with the signs and symptoms, they could likely save a life.”

Montefiore’s program, one of a handful tried across the country, has been used since 2012 with private schools in its neighborhood, where children are often in a grandparent’s care because parents are absent or both working. The goal is to study the results and, if successful, replicate the program across the country.

“The kids get a kick out of it because they get to do a little acting,” said Dr. Robert Glover, a neurologist who helped develop the program. “But when they’re done, they know about stroke and they can teach their families.”

Dr. Kathryn Kirchoff-Torres, who led the class from St. Ann’s School in the Bronx, said the kids are already “little message machines” bringing home from school what they learn about the benefits of exercise, not smoking and eating well.

A similar stroke education study in the Corpus Christi, Texas, public schools used Tejano music. It was headed by Dr. Lewis Morgenstern, director of the stroke program at the University of Michigan Medical School.

The 2007 study found that the youngsters responded well.

“The data was highly positive in terms of knowledge about stroke and their intention to call 911,” Morgenstern said. “The earlier we can make people aware of stroke and that it’s arguably the most treatable of all catastrophic conditions, the better off we will be.”

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