News, Your Health Lindsay Guinaugh | 7 years ago

Wife, Mother, Stroke Survivor

When the brain is cut off from blood flow, it doesn't receive oxygen and cells start to die. This damage trickles down to the rest of the body, resulting in slurred speech, uncoordinated movement and, if not treated right away, death.

This happens a lot. In fact, on average, one American dies from a stroke every four minutes (according to the CDC). And despite what most people think, strokes aren't limited to the elderly – you can be at risk at any age. Kelly Wallace, a sonographer at Carolinas HealthCare System Northeast was one of the lucky ones. A busy 39-year-old wife and mother, Kelly first noticed something was off when a headache persisted for over three days. Not feeling her best, Kelly decided to take her seven-month-old daughter to her parents’ house for the day. It was there that things went from unusual to alarming when she heard her speech become slurred in the midst of a conversation with her father.

“All of a sudden my words changed. And I’m terrified as I hear gibberish coming out of my mouth. I can only imagine how my Dad felt,” said Kelly.

Confused as to what was happening, Kelly rushed into the bathroom only to lose her balance and fall into the wall. Hearing the crash, Kelly’s mother ran into the bathroom finding her daughter lying on the floor. She realized Kelly wasn't able to move the left side of her body and that the left side of her face was drooping. Luckily Kelly’s mother immediately knew what was going on. As a retired nurse, she was well-versed in the FAST technique (face drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulty, time to call 911), which she used to determine that her daughter was having a stroke. Kelly could see that her mother looked really concerned. "So I told her that I was okay, but she just calmly and lovingly looked down at me and said, ‘no honey, you’re having a stroke and I just want you to lie here until the paramedics arrive.'" Arrive they did, and while Kelly spent the next five nights in the ICU followed by a long recovery, she’s now feeling great and extremely grateful. Kelly Wallace_stroke recovery

“I hope my story will open people's eyes to the fact that strokes don't only affect the elderly, and how crucial it is to know the signs and get to the hospital as soon as possible,” said Kelly.

Michael Meuse, MD, an interventional radiologist, was one of the doctors on the team credited with saving Kelly’s life. He agrees with Kelly about the importance of getting to a hospital right away if you suspect signs of a stroke. “We often say 'Time is Brain' meaning, the sooner you start receiving treatment, the less your risk for disability and the better the recovery after a stroke,” he said.

Must-know Stroke Signs

If you or someone you're with is experiencing difficulties and you suspect a potential stroke, act quick and use the National Stroke Association's FAST acronym:
  • Face drooping: Ask the person to smile. Does one side droop?
  • Arms weakness: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one drift downward?
  • Speech difficulty: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Do they slur?
  • Time to call 911: If you observe these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately.