By Meaghan O’Brien from Massachusetts
On World Stroke Day, October 29th, I have a question for you. Do you know the signs of stroke?
When I was 22 years old, I never thought anything bad would happen to me. I had just started my first full time job out of college and I was always doing something fun with my friends or family. That all changed one night when I lost control of the entire left side of my body while at the gym in my hometown. I was having a stroke.
All too often I hear more stories of people suffering strokes, which is why it is so important for EVERYONE to know the signs and understand the importance getting help immediately. Strokes can happen to anyone at any time anywhere, at any age. Minutes, even seconds, can make the difference in someone’s life that will carry with them and their families forever.
The FAST acronym is one of the things that saved my life. I must have seen it at work or on TV, but as soon as my face started to droop I knew I was having a stroke and I was able to advocate for myself. F.A.S.T. is F – face drooping, A – arm weakness, S – speech difficulty, T – time to call 911.
Because of my age and health, no one immediately thought I was having a stroke. Thankfully, we made the decision to administer the treatment that busted the blood clot in my brain and prevented any further loss of oxygen. But the damage was already done. I was 22, seemingly healthy, on the road to a successful career, yet I couldn’t walk, care for myself or even sit up on my own.
Recovery over the past four years has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride. There are good days and bad days, mad days and sad days, days when I don’t think I can get out of bed, days when I totally forget that I might be a little different, but there is absolutely nothing like the days when I feel like I am on top of the world.
Although I still have some minor residual effects from my stroke, I do not let them hold me back from anything I want to do, and I want to do everything. I walk all day up and down city blocks with my friends, dance in the front row at my favorite concerts, drive hours to spend weekends in the mountains skiing or boating, get lost in new places and meet beautiful people. I am a completely independent and able person.
These big moments are amazing and I am so proud, but it truly is the little things that I am most appreciative of. The moments when I am driving down the street, dancing and singing to a good song, and I realize just how beautiful it is when the sun hits the leaves just right, when I am sitting with my family and we are laughing together, when I am with my friends and we dance in the middle of a public place without a care in the world. It is these moments where I feel on top of the world and I realize how truly lucky I am to be alive; to see, feel and have a second chance to live my life.
Today, on the bulletin board at the gym where my stroke happened, there is a FAST poster. Whenever I see the poster I am so grateful that because of this campaign I am still able to go to the gym. Because we acted FAST, I was able to recover as much as I have so far and I am still improving every day. Because we acted FAST, I am able to share my story and I have met so many amazing survivors who inspire me daily. Because we acted FAST, I am able to live the rest of my life on my terms with no reservations.
If everyone takes the time to know the signs and educate others too we can save so many lives and make miraculous recoveries possible.
So again I ask you, do you know the signs of stroke? And will you spread the word?
Learn the signs at www.strokeassociation.org/warningsigns and share this with everyone you know!