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I Survived a Major Stroke at Age 30:

I Got the Right Care Right Away at Abington – Jefferson Health

by Christie Fleming / Warminster

Christie Fleming with her mother, Denise Fleming

Christie Fleming with her mother,
Denise Fleming

April 7, 2016 was the scariest day of my life. It started out as a normal Thursday, except I awakened with a headache that would not go away. I brushed off the headache because I’ve had migraines since I was a kid, so it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. I didn’t know it at the time, but that migraine and the symptoms that followed were warning signs of a catastrophic health event.

Aside from the headache, I felt fine. I went about my morning routine, put in a few hours at work and came home at lunch time to let my dogs out. I bent down to pet my dog, and discovered I couldn’t feel my arms. I panicked when I clapped my hands and the action sounded muffled. I suspected an anxiety attack and tried to calm myself.

As I left the house to return to work, I realized that at some point, I had vomited on my shirt, although I wasn’t aware of it when it happened. I changed my clothes, washed up and when I looked in the mirror, noticed the left side of my face was drooping. At 30 years old, stroke never even crossed my mind and I honestly just thought to myself, “Yikes, I really don’t look good today!” Walking down the stairs, my legs felt like 100-pound weights. At that moment, I knew something was terribly wrong. I managed to get to the phone and call my mom.

Mom told me to hang up and immediately call 911. I couldn’t understand why she wanted me to do so, but she told me later I wasn’t speaking – just making a high-pitched squeal. I had thought my speech was normal at the time. I dialed 911 and the dispatcher sent help, even though I wasn’t making sense. I’m especially lucky my neighbor, who is an emergency medical technician, was home at that time because he heard my name on his scanner. He rushed to my side and within minutes, the emergency medical services (EMS) squad was transporting me to the Emergency Trauma Center at Abington Hospital – Jefferson Health.

Pennock Emergency Trauma CenterThe EMS team evaluated me on the way to the hospital, triggering a prehospital alert, so the stroke team was already in place and ready to take action when I arrived. Stroke is a medical emergency. They say time lost is brain lost.

In fact, you lose 2 million brain cells every minute during a stroke. The stroke team immediately ordered a CT scan and determined I was having an ischemic stroke, caused by a blocked artery in my brain. They administered intravenous tPA, which is the gold standard in clot-busting drugs.

Fast forward to today. I am truly blessed to be here with a successful recovery. I experienced some permanent damage to my brain and have worked hard to relearn basic skills. I have some deficits including no feeling on the left side of my body, distorted taste buds, and balance and memory issues, but I will take these residual side effects over what could have been. It hasn’t been easy adjusting to this new way of life, but I still have my independence and have worked diligently to become a healthier, better version of myself.

The face of stroke is not just of an elderly person as I had once perceived. Stroke can happen to anyone at any age. I was given a second chance. I survived. Now I’m sharing my story so other lives can be saved.

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