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Metro Health Aims to Bring Stroke Awareness to Young People

Contrary to common assumptions, a stroke can strike at any age. The one thing stroke sufferers have in common, whether they are 25 or 75, is this: The faster they get treatment, the better their chance at survival. May is National Stroke Awareness Month, an opportunity for Metro Health – University of Michigan Health to bring attention to strokes and aneurysms, their risk factors, symptoms and impact on sufferers, including young people.

While most strokes occur in people 65 and older, researchers have documented an increased number of strokes among people ages 25 to 44. The misconception that strokes are limited to older people can have dangerous consequences, if a younger person does not recognize the symptoms or delays treatment.

Luckily, Marcia Fitzgerald-Monterusso is one of those young people who immediately sought treatment. In March 2018, at the age of 44, Marcia experienced a sudden headache and severe pain down the back of her neck. Physicians at Metro Health’s Comprehensive Stroke Center diagnosed a ruptured aneurysm – a hemorrhagic stroke.

In cases like hers, up to half of patients never make it to the emergency room. Of those who do make it, another 50 percent don’t survive. Thanks to the lifesaving team at Metro Health’s Comprehensive Stroke Center, Marcia is not part of that statistic and she is here to share her story.

During Stroke Awareness Month, Marcia, along with Dr. Augusto Elias, Director of Metro Health’s Comprehensive Stroke Center, are available for interviews. One year after her life altering experience, Marcia is able to share a firsthand account of her ruptured aneurysm and subsequent stroke. Dr. Elias, who worked on her case, is available to provide expertise on risks, prevention and treatment.

To schedule an interview please contact Jamie Allen at jamie.allen@metrogr.org or 616-252-5033.

Stroke facts

For every age, doctors emphasize it is crucial to recognize the signs and to get immediate treatment. Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States and also the leading cause of disability. According to the National Stroke Association, in May alone, 65,000 Americans will experience a stroke.

An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is blocked by a clot. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when an aneurysm or blood vessel in the brain bursts. In both stroke types, part of the brain can no longer receive the blood and oxygen it needs, so it starts to die.

Hemorrhagic strokes often strike with no warning signs. For those who do experience warning symptoms, it usually comes in the form of the sudden, severe pain of a “thunderclap” headache.

A person experiencing an ischemic stroke will often show symptoms that can be remembered by the phrase “Think F.A.S.T.” The acronym is a simple way to remember the signs of stroke:

  • F – Face / Does the face droop on one side when the person smiles?
  • A – Arm / After raising both arms, does one arm drift downward?
  • S – Speech /After repeating a simple phrase, does the person’s speech sound slurred or strange?
  • T – Time / If any or all of the above are observed, call 9-1-1 immediately for medical assistance.

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joseph.weller@metrogr.org