Updated: Thursday, 14 May 2009, 6:48 PM EDT
Published : Thursday, 14 May 2009, 5:12 PM EDT
Trumbull (WTNH) - After suffering a devastating injury, one young man has fought to reclaim his life and now he's hoping to help others avoid what he's gone through.
Most 22-year-olds are thinking about graduation and how they'll spend their summer. But Garrett Mendez is still working hard to do the things the rest of us take for granted.
When we first met Garrett, Notre Dame High School of Fairfield was honoring him by retiring his hockey jersey. It was a year after he had suffered a massive brain stem stroke, at the age of 19. He had slurred speech, limited mobility and his right arm hung by his side. He has come a long way.
"To me, speaking is hard because I have to think about everything I say," he said.
But he is speaking clearly and walking. Working with therapists at Gaylord Hospital, he practices grabbing cans and reaching for groceries. He has even learned to drive again with a modified car.
Garrett had been paralyzed, blind, unable to speak, eat and even breathe on his own.
"For the first 36 hours, Garrett, after his stroke, was misdiagnosed and treated for encephalitis," said Garrett's mom, Eileen Mendez.
Garrett had taken a hit to the head during a hockey game and it was a full week before symptoms appeared.
"It actually is more common than you would think for young people to have strokes," said Dr. Alyse Sicklick, psychiatrist.
Dr. Sicklick says one third of stroke victims are under the age of 65. Among teens, it is rare but possible. Garrett wants to get that word out, so along with going back to school and working part-time his family's working to raise awareness.
"Had I heard his story, I think I would have taken him to the hospital that night, I wouldn't have assumed it was the flu and we're hoping to tell our story to help maybe even just that one family," Eileen said.
They're hoping his struggle will educate and even inspire others.
Garrett will be participating in Heartwalk at Lighthouse Point Park in New Haven on Sunday. For more information, click here.