Stroke in young people

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‘FAST’ thinking during a stroke saves 26-year-old’s life

Shareena Turley knows first-hand that a stroke can occur at any age.

Fortunately, the 26-year-old Park City life insurance agent also knew the signs and symptoms of stroke when her vision suddenly went “haywire” while she was driving in March.

“I was able to pull over, put the car in park and turn on my hazard lights,” says Shareena. Then her stomach began churning and she started throwing up.

Alone and slumped over in the driver’s seat, she glanced down and saw her left hand lying in her lap and began taking a mental inventory of what she was experiencing: the vertigo, limp arm and difficulty forming words.

Then it hit her.

“I’m having a stroke," Shareena thought.

After five attempts, she finally was able to dial 911. Struggling to form her words, she slurred, “Please help me. I’m in Mulvane. I think I’m having a stroke.”

Help arrives

EMS located her and rushed her to the Emergency Department at Via Christi Hospital on St. Francis, which has the only 24-hour neuro-interventional stroke center in the state outside the Kansas City metro area.

Shareena arrived at 9:15 p.m. and was met by the Acute Stroke Response Team. After testing to confirm that she met the criteria, she was given a clot-busting drug that must be administered within three hours of the onset of stroke.

For the next five days, she remained in the Neurocritical Care Unit, where she was cared for by physicians and staff with advanced stroke care training.

“Shareena suffered a devastating stroke, but her quick response to her symptoms afforded her the full array of options available at an interventional stroke center like ours,” says James Walker, MD, who is board-certified in neurocritical care, critical care and anesthesiology and serves as the director of Via Christi’s primary stroke center.

Slowly, the effects of her stroke, which occurred after several small clots in her neck broke loose and shot into her brain one right after another, began to subside.

Rehabilitation and recovery

“It took me several days in order to just swallow,” says Shareena, who continued her recovery during a 25-day stay at Via Christi Rehabilitation Hospital.

There, she says, she received individualized treatment by a team of speech, physical and occupational therapists who helped her “rewire” her brain and regain her left-side function, strength and fluent speech.

“They really pushed me and at times I thought they were insane,” says Shareena, who now speaks with a strong, clear voice, but can’t perform even the most routine task without concentrating and wears a brace on her left leg to keep her steady.

She also has limited use of her left hand, which is the one she uses to write and to do her sketches and paintings.

“But I can walk now. Via Christi saved my life.”

It’s a gift she hopes to pay forward by making sure that others know the signs and symptoms of a stroke and the importance of acting quickly.

“The chances of this happening to me were slim to none, but it did,” says Shareena, who has never smoked and has always maintained a healthy weight and lifestyle. In fact, her only risk factors were the low-dose estrogen she had been taking as prescribed and a chiropractic neck manipulation in the past year.

“So if it could happen to me, it could happen to anyone so knowing the signs and symptoms can be real lifesaver.”


Do you know the signs of stroke?

Think FAST
Face - Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
Arms - Ask the person to hold both arms up evenly. Does one arm drift downward?
Speech - Ask the person to repeat a single sentence. Are his/her words slurred or mixed up?
Time - If the person shows any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately!

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