Stroke Awareness Day: Meet the 42-year-old Connecticut mother who survived a stroke

Health

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Karen Walsh met a friend to play nine holes of golf on a hot July day; an escape during a pandemic. She started feeling dizzy.

“I was coming off the seventh tee box and I went to put my ball on the tee and I got super dizzy I was like oh god this is weird,” Karen describes, thinking she could be dehydrated.

It was July and Karen Walsh was having a stroke.

She went into the club house and drank fluids, but once at her car she started vomiting and called her husband to pick her up immediately. They were heading home for her to nap from what she thought was a migraine headache. Karen then started deteriorating quickly in the car.

“I started panicking and I said to my  husband go to the hospital now something is not right I don’t know what it is my eyes are doing weird things. I couldn’t speak or form a sentence,” says Karen who did not know it but was experiencing some classic stroke symptoms.

Karen got the the emergency room at UCONN Health and was immediately given a clot busting drug, but that was not enough. Karen’s blood clot was on an artery in the back of her brain so doctors performed emergency surgery.

They used newer technology, entering through an artery in Karen’s groin to gain access to her brain where they removed the potentially deadly clot.

Dr. Sanjay Mittal is the director of UCONN Health’s stroke program.

“What we need to know about strokes is that stroke can happen to anybody,” says Dr. Mittal.

Dr. Mittal says blood clots cause strokes, sometimes arteries in the brain burst, evoking the same symptoms.

He says patients need to get that clot busting medication within a four and a half hour window.

Dr. Mittal says that older people have a higher risk of stroke as well as those with high cholesterol, diabetes or high blood pressure.

“People whose high blood pressure are constantly above 140 over 90 range they are at a two to threefold higher than general population at a risk of having a stroke,” says Dr. Mittal.

He says remember the acronym of BEFAST to recognize health changes for stroke symptoms. B is for balance. E for eyes. F for face. A for arm. S for speech. T for time.

Karen’s recovery journey took weeks. She is undergoing extensive physical therapy and has vision issues, but is thankful she was able to get help in time.

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