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Barely 47. Three weeks after my high school graduation all my mother and I could think about was what color to have our toes painted for my college orientation. I chose "pink pearl", she chose "heart". Had I known that would be our last outing together I would have acted a little less like a boy crazy eighteen year old, and a lot more like a daughter who loved her Mom.

Sudden. The stroke happened fast. It was massive and unrelenting.

Severe. She rapidly experienced intense pain in her left arm, weakness on the left side of her body, loss of vision in her left eye, impaired hearing, she could not walk or sit up, and was unbearably nauseous. All of this within a 15 minute walk I took our dog on. My mom was thorough and precise. We often entertained the idea of her living past one‐hundred because she was never sick. Stroke does not discriminate solely based upon age or overall health though. She had been living with an untreated heart problem, which caused a blood clot to form and go straight to her brain. Three days later she was declared brain dead. Years have come and gone now, but those words still sting.

FAST. Face. Arms. Speech. Time. They say that hindsight is 20/20. In my mother's case, it may have been a life saver. Three days before her stroke she called me at work. She had a headache so horrible that she asked me to bring dinner home. I did, and when we went to bed she seemed fine. In hindsight, I know she wasn't. She had most likely suffered a mini‐stroke, a warning that a major stroke would occur. We may have noticed something abnormal had I asked her to smile, raise her arms, or say something specific that night. We didn't see the life saving signs because we didn't know how to read them. A wise woman once told me to always find the positive in moments of pain, even if it is a long road searching. I am still on that journey, but have certainly felt light through those dark clouds.

May what happened to her, and to us, forever raise the awareness of the symptoms of stroke and help save lives. Love you Mom.


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