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Adrienne W.


Knowledge Saves Lives!

At age 34, I survived a stroke caused that could have been prevented had I known the warning signs of stroke.  Knowledge truly is power and my story of denial, a major health crisis, and survival illustrates the extreme importance of stroke education.

As the summer of 2010 rolled around, I was a healthy and independent 34 year old woman. I was living alone at the time and had been working on changing my career path from public policy to social work. On Sunday, June 20, 2010, I woke up around 5 am completely paralyzed on my right side and unable to speak at all. As strange as this may sound, initially I was not too concerned. For about a month and a half leading up to that morning, I had been having episodes of weakness on my right side, but after each episode I had always regained my strength within an hour or two. As a healthy 34-year old, stroke was the furthest thing from my mind. A couple of weeks prior to June 20th, I had met up with some friends for happy hour and as I tried to walk from my car to the restaurant, I suddenly had trouble making my feet and legs do what I wanted them to do. I ended up shuffling along in the parking lot for about a few minutes, unsure of what was happening to me. But because I was eventually able to walk normally again, I once again discounted what I now know were pre-stroke symptoms, or as my doctors called them TIAs, as "nothing to worry about" and I continued about my life.

So, the morning of June 20th, I stayed in bed and waited to regain any movement at all on my right side. While I was lying there, I tried to say good morning to my cat, Sweet Pea, and nothing would come out. Despite the episodes of weakness that I had experienced previously, my speech had never been affected. That is when I started to panic and realized that something was very wrong. I realized that not only was I unable to speak, I wasn't just weak on my right side, I was completely paralyzed. Things weren't improving and I knew that I needed to get help immediately.

Despite being alone, very scared, and unable to speak, I was still able to call 911. They were able to come out to my apartment and rushed me to closest hospital. Tests revealed that I had an ischemic stroke caused by a large dissection (tear in my artery) in my left internal carotid artery. Testing also revealed that I had dissections in my right internal carotid artery and right vertebral artery. Prior to June 20th, I had been experiencing what I now know were early warning signs for stroke, and according to my doctors, likely had several TIA's. I had always thought of strokes as something that happens when you're in your 70's or 80's, and in addition to that common misconception, I had no idea what the warning signs of a stroke were to begin with.

On top of that, I had no idea that strokes could be caused by genetic conditions, such as connective tissue disorders like the one that caused my multiple arterial dissections, which in turn caused my stroke. Although rare, I found myself learning all about connective tissue disorders, carotid artery dissections, and how it had led up to the stroke. Looking back, had I gone to the hospital on any one of those occasions I mentioned above, a simple ultrasound or MRI would have revealed the dissections in three of my arteries and I could have received medical treatment that would have likely prevented my stroke. Knowledge truly is power, and truly can save lives!
I am happy to say that I have regained the ability to speak, along with all of my movement and feeling on my right side! I had two stents placed in my left internal carotid artery, and was able to return home after spending a couple of nights in the ICU and a couple of weeks on the stroke unit at the hospital. I am following through with making the career change I was planning on before the stroke, although I have decided on a different career than I had planned on two years ago. I have enrolled in school and am studying to become a paralegal!

Since my stroke, I have advocated for the importance of stroke education, especially to those who are younger. It is so important to get the word out there that stroke can happen at any age, and that strokes are not always related to your lifestyle. A genetic condition that I wasn't aware of prior to my stroke is what caused my dissections, and in turn lead to the stroke. I am not the typical "face of stroke", which is why I feel it is so important to share my story with everyone out there!


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Display of the Faces of Stroke stories does not imply National Stroke Association's endorsement of any product, treatment, service or entity. National Stroke Association strongly recommends that people ask a healthcare professional about diagnosis and treatment questions before using any product, treatment or service. The views expressed through the stories reflect those of the authors and do not reflect the opinion of National Stroke Association.

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