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Woman Shares Story of Surviving a Stroke and Acting “FAST”

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ANKENY, Iowa -- Usually symptoms give us a clue something is wrong, if we listen to our bodies. A West Des Moines woman is thankful she did after experiencing a severe version of a symptom many of us have every now and then.

The only sign of Sandy Craig's health scare is the way she walks.

"I have a little bit of a limp.," Craig said.

But, she couldn't even do that a little more than a year ago.

"I had a stroke, bleeding brain aneurysm resulting in a stroke back in February of last year," Craig explained.

She had a horrible headache for a couple of days, when she decided to see the doctor. The physician told her to go the hospital right away, which was where the 56-year-old had the stroke.

"Jerry (her husband) was given an option, whether or not to pull the plug," Craig said. "That's how close to death I was."

Craig spent about a month in the hospital, which she doesn't remember. Then, she came to On With Life Brain Rehabilitation Center in Ankeny.

"When I got here I couldn't, I whispered, I couldn't talk, I couldn't eat, I mean I could eat, but I needed help. I couldn't walk, couldn't sit up," Craig said.

She spent three months doing therapy, sometimes eleven times a day. She even hosted a toddler yoga class to help prepare her to return to work at a daycare.

"She's spunky, she had a great attitude. We would try to give her anything and everything, and she would look at us, and give us a smart comment back," Physical Therapist Jacque Thole said. "But, she'd say, yes let's try it."

On With Life serves around 80 people recovering from a brain injury every year. About half of those suffered a stroke and not all see the same results.

"Every stroke is different, every brain injury is different, so if you have someone that comes in with such and such diagnosis, it could present totally different than someone with a fairly similar stroke, but slightly different part of the brain," Thole said.

Sandy graduated from One With Life in June 2014.

"Sandy is just shy of a miracle," Thole said.

Then she got back to hers.

"Just getting back into the swing of things has really been tough. But, everything it's a positive. It's been a long road though," Craig said.

May is stroke awareness month. The National Stroke Association and American Heart Association both say to remember "FAST" to know if someone is having a stroke. "F" is for face. Ask the person to smile to see if one side droops. "A" is for arms. Ask the person to raise both arms to see if one drifts down. "S" is for speech. Does their voice slur or sound strange when repeating a simple sentence? "T" is for time.

Call 911 immediately if you notice any of these signs.

Other symptoms include numbing or weakness of the leg, sudden confusion, sudden dizziness or a sudden severe headache with no known cause.

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