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Local Health Alert: American Stroke Month

Author: Caitlin Lockerbie

Published: 4:28 PM CDT May 22, 2017

Updated: 4:28 PM CDT May 22, 2017

May is American Stroke month, and in an effort to spread awareness, a Mid-south mom says paying attention to warning signs, can help save your life.

Rhonnie Brewer was 28-years-old when she suffered her first stroke. Two weeks before, she had given birth to her second baby girl. It was during her pregnancy that she noticed physical warnings signs. “My knees would swell up, I would just have random headaches.” Brewer explains she also started to have fainting spells.

When she explained the symptoms to her doctor, her physician told her it was likely brought on by stress. She tried to manage it at work and home, but when her daughter Emahn arrived, and the fainting continued, there was little to explain it away. Just days after giving birth, a stroke knocked Brewer to the ground.

“It was like someone had hit me in the back of the head with a sledgehammer,” she explains. Thankfully, her sister was visiting to help her with her new baby, and was able to rush her to the hospital.

Doctors finally informed Brewer’s family, that she had suffered a stroke and initially, the prognosis was grim. The doctor visited her bedside. “He comes in the room next to me and goes ‘do you believe in God?’ And I nodded my head ‘yes,’ and he said, ‘well, then we need to pray.'”

Brewer says her speech and strength were impacted, but she was determined to recover for the sake of her two daughters and family. Her loved ones rallied around her, and testing showed the bleeding on her brain was healing on its own. “Talking came back over a series of weeks, but it was very stunted, very slow,” she says.

It was after the stroke, that Brewer realized she had been living with Lupus for years, but undiagnosed. A family friend, and physician, was able to help assist her with testing to come to a realization about her health, telling her it could be managed but she would be living with it for her lifetime. She says doctors explained the condition had been building up antibodies against her own blood, which is what led to her stroke. “It was basically fighting my own blood and causing blood clots to form.” According to the National Institutes of Health, up to 20% of patients with Lupus experience a stroke, and the risk is higher in younger people. Brewer now manages her condition, making healthier life choices as well. She’s encouraging others this month to pay attention to their bodies and any symptoms that raise cause for concern. “Early on prevention is so much better than waiting for something that’s really, really huge.”

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