Bryan Stroke Survivor Shares What She Experienced

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BRYAN- Every year more than 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke.

It's the 4th leading cause of death in the U-S, and the leading cause of serious long-term disability.

But what is a stroke, and what are the risk factors?

A Bryan woman who suffered a stroke has made a remarkable recovery in her rehabilitation.

Andrea Perez has a look of determination working with physical therapists.

"There you go, that's it!"

She's going through stroke therapy at St. Joseph Outpatient Rehabilitation Center in Bryan.

Two and a half years after suffering a stroke, she still has a little trouble with the left side of her body, sometimes dragging her left foot.

"On that left side a little bit more, left, left... (andrea shaking head)."
...and that can be a little exasperating.

But she has come a long way since August of 2011, when at the age of 34, her world was turned upside down.

"Had horrible feeling in my head, I would describe as worst headache in my life."

She went to an emergency room, but a CT scan didn't show anything serious.

Over the next few days she stayed home from her job, working as a nurse, because she felt very weak, was vomiting, and her left eyelid was drooping. All signs of a possible stroke that Andrea knows now, she should have recognized.

Then at 3 on a Saturday morning, she couldn't get up. Her husband called 9-1-1.

Andrea says, "When the paramedic was over over me and asking me to smile, I did what he asked me to, and he said this looks like the signs of a stroke. And that was the end. I didn't remember anything else. I don't remember being put on gurney, taken to ER, going into surgery."

Surgery stopped the massive bleeding in her brain, but the damage was done.

When she woke up, she couldn't talk, but she could write, asking about her 4 children.

This is what a stroke can look like after an MRI is taken of the brain.

"You can see the normal tissue here, and the damaged tissue here."

"Stroke is almost like a heart attack in the brain."

Dr. Kelly Lobb is a rehab specialist.
"It's essentially when tissue in the brain is not getting its oxygen supply for reasons such as if a vessel is being blocked going into certain part of the brain. That's brain tissue that's supposed to be getting blood and oxygen, then is injured and can die."

And there are many risk factors for stroke, but at the top of the list, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and uncontrolled diabetes.

The good news is that rehabilitation is very possible.

Dr. Lobb says, "If you have a part of your brain damaged, the area around that area of the brain that was damaged can sometimes learn the same functions and take over what that part of the brain was doing."

And that could be what's helping Andrea in her recovery, along with her determination.

"When I have my bad days, thank God I only have a few of those, but when I do have those days, I remember, this is a marathon and I'm going to get better. I have to keep trying."

And therapists are helping her.
"Good job! I've been working at it. It's a long process"