MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Strokes kill around 140,000 people in the United States every year, but even more startling that than is the fact someone who is the picture of health can suffer a stroke.
Stephanie Buntin gets emotional talking about the April morning her husband drove her to the ER at Methodist Hospital after she began experiencing symptoms of a stroke.
"I stopped it all — the thoughts of who is going to care for my children, who is going to be there for them, who is going to step in," she said.
Days earlier, the 39-year-old mom of three was diagnosed with a torn artery in her neck after complaining about a sore neck and severe, pulsating pain on the side of her head.
Buntin was referred to Dr. Andrei Alexandrov with the Comprehensive Stroke Center at Methodist University Hospital. He immediately put her on blood thinners, told her she was now at risk for a stroke and drilled into her the warning signs.
"The best we can figure out is that she was moving furniture and doing some sort of very strenuous activity that put strain right here (pointing to his neck), and one of the arteries can be snapped like a tree branch," Alexandrov said.
Because Buntin recognized the symptoms and got to the hospital right away, doctors were able to administer a clot-busting drug that not only saved her life, but reversed what was happening to her body.
"Within 45 minutes I had gained my mobility back, and the left side headache was gone, so at that point we had averted a stroke," she said.
But Buntin is not out of the woods, yet.
Doctors say it could take months for the artery to heal, and there are many activities she can no longer do. She's now sharing her story to let others know that a stroke can happen to anyone at any age.
"I thought strokes were for older people," she said. "I thought strokes were for unhealthy people, people that smoke, older people like my grandparents. It never crossed my mind that I could have a stroke."
Doctors say those with high blood pressure and diabetes or people living an unhealthy lifestyle are at greatest risk for a stroke.