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Young Stroke Survivor Recovers from Lasting Effects

ANKENY, Iowa –Tara Kurtt didn’t think she’d be doing physical therapy exercises when she was in her thirties. She had a stroke three years ago when she was just 31.

"I am a medical assistant, so I was at work, and just kind of started off with neck pain, is how it presented. I had pain in my right side of my neck, and laid on the floor to find of alleviate the pain," she said.

Even in a room of doctors and nurses, no one suspected a stroke, but she knew something was wrong and went to the hospital. "They did the MRI, they saw I had a clot in my neck, and had had a stroke, and they rushed me over to Iowa City," she said.

After she was released from the hospital, she had weakness on her right side. She used a walker and went to physical therapy. She eventually went back to work as a medical assistant. "Where things just got overwhelming. My performance started going downhill, which isn't like me," she said.

Her doctor sent her to On With Life in Ankeny for a cognitive evaluation, where she learned she had deficits. She started speech, occupational, and physical therapy in the outpatient program.

On With Life Physical Therapist Jillian Jones said, "What we're seeing lately is this trend of even younger and younger individuals coming through our program who have had a stroke, who have had post-concussive symptoms."

That's why Jones said it's important for people to listen to their bodies and be aware of stroke symptoms. "And you have the traditional symptoms of the FAST acronym: face, arm, speech, time. And, you might notice those, a droop in your face, trouble with speech, your arms, maybe you have poor grip strength, your arm is hanging low, but Tara, she didn't have those traditional symptoms."

Tara was glad she listened to her body, but she wishes she would have found more resources, like those at On With Life, sooner.

“The support I got was overwhelming and had I had that three years ago when I had my stroke, it might have turned out very differently for me in the long run," said Kurtt.

Kurtt was recently let go from her job as a CMA. She's now working with a brain injury specialist at Iowa Workforce Development to retrain for another career. She's also looking at vision therapy as the next step in her recovery.