Trumbull (WTNH) - After suffering a devastating injury, one young man has foughtto reclaim his life and now he's hoping to help others avoid whathe's gone through.
Most 22-year-olds are thinking about graduation and how they'llspend their summer. But Garrett Mendez is still working hard to dothe things the rest of us take for granted.
When we first met Garrett, Notre Dame High School of Fairfieldwas honoring him by retiring his hockey jersey. It was a year afterhe had suffered a massive brain stem stroke, at the age of 19. Hehad slurred speech, limited mobility and his right arm hung by hisside. He has come a long way.
"To me, speaking is hard because I have to think abouteverything I say," he said.
But he is speaking clearly and walking. Working with therapistsat Gaylord Hospital, he practices grabbing cans and reaching forgroceries. He has even learned to drive again with a modifiedcar.
Garrett had been paralyzed, blind, unable to speak, eat and evenbreathe on his own.
"For the first 36 hours, Garrett, after his stroke, wasmisdiagnosed and treated for encephalitis," said Garrett's mom,Eileen Mendez.
Garrett had taken a hit to the head during a hockey game and itwas a full week before symptoms appeared.
"It actually is more common than you would think for youngpeople to have strokes," said Dr. Alyse Sicklick, psychiatrist.
Dr. Sicklick says one third of stroke victims are under the ageof 65. Among teens, it is rare but possible. Garrett wants to getthat word out, so along with going back to school and workingpart-time his family's working to raise awareness.
"Had I heard his story, I think I would have taken him to thehospital that night, I wouldn't have assumed it was the flu andwe're hoping to tell our story to help maybe even just that onefamily," Eileen said.
They're hoping his struggle will educate and even inspireothers.
Garrett will be participating in Heartwalk at Lighthouse PointPark in New Haven on Sunday. For more information, clickhere.
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