20-year-old Gaston woman shares story of stroke survival on World Stroke Day

Updated: Oct. 29, 2020 at 10:47 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Thursday, October 29 marks World Stroke Day.

New research from the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association shows one in three young adults do not know the signs of a stroke, including sudden numbness or weakness on one side of the body, eyesight changes, trouble walking, confusion and difficulty speaking or dizziness and sudden lack of coordination.

Allyson Sanford, 20, had no reason to know the signs, either. The young Gaston woman told WIS she now knows a stroke can happen to anyone at any time because that’s exactly what happened to her.

Sanford was at a conference for FFA, which is a youth organization that targets young adults with opportunities for leadership and career growth through agricultural education.

She remembers the moment when she began to feel dizzy and disoriented. Others at the conference noticed Sanford was exhibiting facial drooping and beginning to mumble. One person recognized the signs and they called 911 and rushed Sanford to the hospital. She couldn’t lift her arm on her left side and was unable to form words. That’s when the doctor she was having a stroke at 18 years old.

“He says, ‘Well, you’re having a stroke,’ and I remember grabbing on to the sides of the bed as best I could and trying to sit up to say, ‘A stroke, what?’ I was flabbergasted,” Sanford said. “Especially with young people, a lot of people don’t know what’s going on. I realized, like hey, this happens to a lot of people. It’s not just a 65 and older thing.”

Sanford got treatment in time but was paralyzed on the left side of her body for months after her stroke, making it difficult to do what she loved, which was to train and ride her horses.

Sanford remembers she had told others at the conference that she “just needed to sleep it off.”

Now she knows that decision could’ve meant a completely different outcome, and she’s urging other young adults to know the signs and symptoms.

“Don’t wait... don’t say ‘Ok, I’ll see what’s happening tomorrow,’” she said. “I’ve heard so many stories being in the stroke world of people going days, even having a mini-stroke. But stuff could’ve happened to help prevent the long-lasting effects and they didn’t seek medical attention and they didn’t know what was happening.”

Thanks to rehabilitation and a lot of support, Sanford has regained most of her left side use. She said she still doesn’t completely feel every sensation on her left side, but she’s back to doing what she loves — showing her horses.

Sanford’s story was one of several women’s stories shared locally for the American Heart Association’s annual casting call last year in the Midlands. Now, it’s time to hear yours!

The deadline for this year’s American heart Association casting call for men, women and children from the Midlands to share their story and inspire others is November 6.

You can send your story — in a brief 90 second video — to Catherine Ramsey, at Catherine.ramsey@heart.org.

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