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Christina Saldívar had a sudden, severe headache that she initially thought was related to her period.
After she collapsed, colleagues called an ambulance and Saldivar, then 26, was told she had suffered a stroke.
Strokes are unusual in young people, but Saldivar, who is fully recovered, wants everyone to know the signs.
When Christina Saldivar went to the bathroom on a Monday morning in February 2020, she was hit with the worst headache of her life.
Saldivar, then 26, was between classes at the Virginia elementary school where she teaches music, and initially attributed the vertigo to her periods. “I’m losing a lot of blood right now,” she said thinking. “Maybe I’m just a little weak.”
But then she felt nauseous and quickly found herself in and out of consciousness on the bathroom floor. That’s when the self-proclaimed germaphobe knew something bad was going on. “I wouldn’t be on the floor of a booth,” she laughs now.
Yet when Saldivar called her colleague using her Apple watch, she simply asked the teacher to take her class to their next unit. She said she didn’t need the nurse, but changed her mind when her headache intensified and spread.
Saldivar remembers looking up at the nurse and then being in an ambulance. “I kept saying, ‘my head my head my head.'” She recalled saying she wanted her mother, a comment the tech seemed to mock. “I think she thought I was overreacting,” Saldivar said.
She later learned that she had suffered a stroke, despite a previously clean bill of health and a cigarette- and alcohol-free lifestyle. Saldivar, now a healthy mum to a four-month-old, is speaking out to raise awareness of strokes among young people and encourage everyone to recognize the signs.
Saldivar said she had to wait hours for a brain scan
Saldivar does not remember her visit to the hospital, but her family and boyfriend told her they waited hours to be seen.
Her boyfriend was so frustrated with the perceived lack of urgency that Saldivar’s mother asked him to leave the place to collect himself. “Something is seriously wrong, she was never like this,” he would say, according to family recollections.
Brain scans finally revealed he was right. “We need to have her operated immediately,” the clinicians said. She had suffered a ruptured cerebral aneurysm, resulting in a severe cerebral hemorrhage.
“My neurologist said we were lucky we moved then because if we had waited any longer I definitely wouldn’t be here,” Saldivar said.
She was treated with a coil, which stops the bleeding and can be inserted through a catheter extending from the groin to the brain. Saldivar’s grateful doctors did not need to shave her head and operate on her skull, which other patients she is in contact with have undergone. “I love my hair,” Saldivar said.
After about two weeks, she was released and considers herself lucky to have recovered quickly and completely. Many survivors of a ruptured brain aneurysm take years and numerous therapies to regain their ability to speak, walk and eat.
Saldivar got behind the wheel a few months later and returned to teaching – albeit practically at first – about a month later. She received many greeting cards from students and was celebrated at an end-of-school-year luncheon. “They were so happy to see me alive and healthy,” she said.
Strokes are unusual in young people
Only about 10% of strokes occur in people under 50, and the risk goes down the younger you are, Dr. Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, president of the American Heart Association, told Insider. .
Strokes occur when there is a disruption of blood flow to the brain, usually from a clot that has traveled to the brain or from spontaneous brain bleeding.
While some factors like race and family history of strokes are out of control, others like not smoking and managing your blood pressure, you can. Hormonal contraceptives containing estrogen, especially in smokers, may also increase the risk.
How quickly patients receive treatment affects the severity and duration of complications that follow, which can include urinary tract infections, pneumonia, paralysis, difficulty speaking and swallowing, memory loss, and even changes of personality and a propensity for blasphemy.
“Minutes matter in terms of preserving brain tissue and brain function,” Lloyd-Jones said. That’s why Saldívar wants people to know the acronym FAST — droopy face, arm weakness, slurred speech and time to call 911 — to identify stroke symptoms.
“Sharing my story will help people realize that there is no age limit and you have to know the signs,” she said. “You could save your life or someone else’s.”
Read the original Insider article
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