Stroke Survivor Speaks Out

Stroke Survivor Speaks Out

Fort Wayne women opens up about her near death experience on World Stroke Day.

Here in the U.S. a person has a stroke every 40 seconds. The American Heart and Stroke Association claims October 29 each year as world stroke day to bring awareness of its effects. Tracy Smith is a Fort Wayne native who says she was able to save her own life because she recognized she was having a stroke before it was too late.

"If there's ever been a fear in my life, it was then and it's because I was driving 83 miles per hour down interstate 69," said Smith.

Smith recalls the day she suffered from a stroke. It was April of 2009. 

"I lost feeling in my legs and in my arms. The EMS literally just had to pull me out my car," she said. "I was a little in denial because I was afraid."

Smith says she called for help just in time because she knew what was happening to her body.

She said prior to her stroke, she had been educated about the heart disease because she has three strikes against her.

"I was African American, I’m a woman and I have high blood pressure. I’ve had high blood pressure since I was 13 years old," said Smith.

The American Heart and Stroke Association says those are the three traits where a stroke is most common. Smith spent eight months in rehabilitation and had to learn the most simple things all over again, like writing her name. The association promotes the acronym fast to educate the public about the signs of a stroke. It stands for face drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulty and time to call 9-1-1. Smith's advice to other people and women like herself:

"Know the signs,” she said. "To have a stroke at 38 years old...It changes everything, it changes everything. I mean, you start to look at life totally different."

Below is more information from the American Heart and Stroke Association about how to recognize a stroke before it’s too late:

o   F - Face Drooping: Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.

o   A - Arm Weakness: Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

o   S - Speech Difficulty: Is speech slurred, are they unable to speak, or are they hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence like, “The sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?

o   T - Time to call 9-1-1: If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get them to the hospital immediately.

This year, 795,000 people in the United States will have a first or recurrent stroke. Other than a prior stroke, major stroke risk factors include:

§  High blood pressure – It’s the most important controllable risk factor for stroke. About 77 percent of people who have a first stroke have blood pressure higher than 140/90 mm Hg. An estimated 78 million Americans have hypertension and it is especially serious in the African-American and Hispanic populations.

§  Transient ischemic attack – About 15 percent of strokes are preceded by a TIA (or “mini stroke”).

§  Atrial fibrillation (Afib) – It increases stroke risk up to five times and affects more than 2.7 million Americans.

§  Smoking – Current smokers have two to four times the stroke risk of nonsmokers or those who quit more than 10 years ago. In 2011, 21.3 percent of men and 16.7 percent of women 18 or older were cigarette smokers.

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