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Nurse survives stroke, emphasizes identifying signs 'FAST'

Face drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulty all indicators, doctors say

Nurse survives stroke, emphasizes identifying signs 'FAST'

MADISON, Wis. - Nearly 800,000 Americans suffer from a stroke every year. It's the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, and it can happen to anyone.

"Patients didn't really realize that it could happen to them," stroke survivor Becky Stowers said. "A 26-year-old didn't realize that it could happen to them and it did. And as a 46-year-old I didn't really believe it but when I went to the hospital, I really thought I did."

Stowers has been a nurse for more than two decades but in her 40s she never thought she would become a patient herself.

"The neurologist that saw me in the hospital told me I would never go back to work again, and I told him that he didn't know who I was," Stowers said.

Stowers had a right thalamic stroke caused from a medication she was taking, a symptom that affects only one in 250,000 people.

"We think that because somebody is having stroke-like symptoms, but they're not elderly (so) maybe it's not a stroke,," Dean & St. Mary's Neurologist Steve Block said. "Well, that public perception is not accurate because I see plenty of people who've had strokes in their 20s, 30s or 40s who are otherwise really healthy people."

It took a day to diagnose Stowers symptoms. Nine years since that diagnosis, Block emphasizes that time is the first priority. Doctors including Block want people to know the signs of a stroke. Think "FAST" to recognize a stroke: look for face drooping, arm weakness and speech difficulty. The "T" stands for time.

"You're losing about a billion brain cells every minute that the brain is not getting adequate oxygen," Block said.

For Stowers, it took four months of therapy twice a day to recover.

"It was getting my brain to figure out how to redo some things," she said.

She had to teach her brain everything from how to walk and speak. Despite still having some lasting effects, including chronic pain and numbness, Stowers is thankful to be back with her patients.

"I just feel blessed. I'm upright and walking, I thank God every day for that, and I'm back to work," Stowers said.

There are some risk factors you can change to prevent strokes. Doctors said a person can lower his or her blood pressure, stop smoking, eat healthy and maintain a healthy weight with physical activity.

News 3 is partnering with Dean and St. Mary's to help give stroke assessments and teach life-saving skills before the Mallards baseball game on Tuesday from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. at Warner Park.


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