Jessica L.

Photo of Jessica L.

I am … a Survivor.

At 22 I just graduated college landed my first teaching job and began the next chapter of my life, or so I thought. I was grading papers one night and got out bed my left side of my body felt weak. My mom entered my room and saw me as my legs collapsed beneath me and I tried to get up. I began laughing, because if you know me you know I am a total klutz. I didn’t think anything of it. Till I tried to stand up and realized my left side of my body was paralyzed and my face was starting to go numb. I immediately called out to her in a panic and she whisked me off the floor. We didn’t know what was happening so my father came and took me to the ER. My speech was slurred I could barely concentrate on what my dad was saying to me. I was more fixated on the fact my face was drooping. I was in denial this cannot be a stroke. I went into the ER was rushed in for CT. A spot on my scan indicated at Mini-Stroke. I didn’t believe it. Neither did the ER doctor. He said at only 22 strokes and mini-strokes were not common at all. He didn’t even want to call it that. He said he felt more comfortable classifying me as a case of complex migraines. I was sort of left without answers till I met with a neurologist who looked over my scans and tests and indicated that I was unfairly treated based on my age that I did have a stroke and was not properly cared for.

I had no physical lasting effects but it was still traumatic. I was put through all sorts of test to figure out why a seemingly healthy 22 year old would have such an episode. I was worried it would happen again, worried that as a first year teacher I would be penalized for taking medical time, and beyond frustrated that I did have damaged vision and difficulty concentrating. I didn’t understand why it happened. It didn’t make sense. Nearly a month to the day, I stayed after school to help some students I got up out of my desk and immediately felt like I was going to vomit. My left side went paralyzed instantaneously and I couldn’t see out of my left eye. My face drooped and I could call out. It was by the grace of God those students were with me and got another teacher. I was taken to the hospital and again they did not want to classify me at my age with a stroke. My cardiologist and neurologist and primary physician were calling the hospital arguing with the personal to treat me. They said that the symptoms could be a stroke or a migraine and didn’t believe again that at 22 years old this could happen. My family felt helpless. I felt more helpless. No one would take my episodes seriously and I was more worried that I could die or have lasting effect.

It’s been one year ago next month that I will be stroke-free. I have come a long way and still have a long way to go but I want everyone to see that strokes, regardless the type, do not discriminate. I still worry every day that I will have another stroke. It will always be an anxiety for me but when I stop and relax I realize that it is one chapter in my life and there are many more to come. I can’t dwell on the possibilities and just keep moving forward.