May 11, 2012 9:33 AM by Jennifer Horbelt
May is National Stroke Awareness month and with that comes news of an increase in strokes in young people.
At 18-years-old, Christine Gray of Colorado Springs suffered a massive stroke that left her mostly paralyzed, unable to speak and hospitalized for more than a month. After a year of therapy, she was finally back on her feet, but the experience left her with a new appreciation for life and the hope that her story will get more people to pay attention to the signs of a stroke.
"I was a normal, active 18 year old," Gray said.
Years after her stroke, Christine is healthy and happy with husband Matt and son Christopher, looking at get well cards sent by family and friends during her medical crisis.
"I was on my computer and somehow I fell over, knocked my head," Gray said, recalling the events of that day nearly 10 years ago. "I started having seizures."
The stroke was traced to a hemorrhage on her left frontal lobe and a deep vein thrombosis on the right side of her brain.
"She was 90% paralyzed on one side, and 100% on the other," her husband Matt, who was dating Gray at the time, said.
At one point, doctors thought Gray wouldn't make it.
"The American Red Cross had to call my brother back from his second or third deployment. My dad called the funeral home, and my mom went to go get a dress," Gray said through tears.
"We have had, particularly women who are young, having strokes," Ellen Lane, Stroke Program Coordinator for St. Mary Corwin Hospital in Pueblo, said of the rise in young stroke victims.
"A lot of times what's happening is, they're using birth control pills, and sometimes in combination with smoking," Lane said, adding hormone therapy in older women also puts them at risk.
Gray taking birth control at the time of her stroke. It's a scary trend that Lane and Dr. Kevin Weber, also with St. Mary Corwin Hospital, hope gets you to recognize symptoms and not wait to seek treatment.
"Loss of vision in one or both eyes, inability to speak, blurred vision, transient confusion. Numbness or weakness in the hand or foot," Dr. Weber said of the signs of a stroke.
"Every minute that goes by that they don't get treatment, about two million nerve cells are dying in their brain," Lane said.
Gray now has a new appreciation for things like a simple walk in the park with her husband and her 5-year-old son Christopher.
"I think about a lot of things. I don't take life for granted anymore, and through the midst of this Matt stood by me," Gray said of her husband's support.
Doctors told Gray she would not be able to have children, and if she did they would be born with a disability. Christopher is a happy and healthy 5-year-old boy.
She does have some long term effects from the stroke, including a slight stutter at times and issues with her short term memory.
To learn more about strokes, click here.