When Rocco Giandomenico started touching his forehead and saying "name of the people, name of the people" over and over, wife Cecilia knew something was seriously wrong.
It was a mini-stroke and, rather than bemoaning such a serious health event, Mrs Giandomenico said they were very lucky.
Mr Giandomenico was back to normal within 15 minutes and, if he'd been alone, they might never have recognised this warning sign of a full-blown stroke.
The Quirindi couple are telling their story ahead of National Stroke Week from September 2 to 8.
Mrs Giandomenico said they'd been preparing a snack of watermelon when her husband said something she couldn't make out.
It was while they were eating that he started repeating the phrase but couldn't explain what he meant.
"Alarm bells went off in my head ... it wasn't normal," she said. "He was usually sharp as a tack."
She drove him to hospital and he was taken to the stroke unit in Tamworth, where it was confirmed he'd had a transient ischemic attack (TIA).
According to the Stroke Foundation, a TIA is a warning of a stroke and "an opportunity to act to prevent this happening".
"With investigation and treatment, the risk of stroke following a TIA can be reduced by up to 80 percent."
That was more than three years ago; Mr Giandomenico is now on blood-pressure medication and daily aspirin.
He said he would be forever grateful to his wife.
"Cecilia is my love and my hero," he said.
"I would never have gone to the hospital without her taking action and next year we'll celebrate our 60th wedding anniversary."
Stroke occurs when blood supply to the brain is disrupted by a blocked or leaking blood vessel.
Stroke Foundation NSW manager Rhian Paton-Kelly praised Mrs Giandomenico's quick thinking.
"Recognising the signs of stroke and getting Rocco to hospital meant he reached treatment quickly and is able to live well after stroke with his family," she said.
People are urged to remember the FAST acronym:
- Face - has their mouth drooped?
- Arms - can they lift both of them?
- Speech - is it slurred? Can you understand them and vice versa?
- Time is critical - call triple 0 if you see any of these signs.