A stroke means acting fast

The big question is: what happens to the body when a person has a stroke and how do you know if you're having one?

It was an experience that Jo Rocheleau will never forget...and definitely never expected.

"I got out of bed at 5 o'clock on February 15th and realized I had a massive stroke. I knew immediately it was a stroke. I couldn't move the left side of my body," says Rocheleau.

Rocheleau who was 44 at the time, ended up laying on her bedroom floor for two days not being able to move.

"The phones were ringing off the hook but I couldn't get to them," says Rocheleau.

After the two days, a friend finally found her on the ground and called 911. Rocheleau was in the hospital for two months and had to undergo four months of out-patient therapy. Now eight years later, she's moved on with her life and is even planning a summer wedding, but she is constantly reminded of the stroke.

"I'm doing quite well. I still have a little bit of a limp but I can walk, drive and work. I'm doing a whole lot better than what I should have been. I was on hormones at the time, which is what the doctors blamed it on," says Rocheleau.

The big question is: what happens to the body when a person has a stroke and how do you know if you're having one?

"Sometimes a blood vessel can be blocked or closed off. In that case blood does not to the that part of the brain and when that happens a person has a stroke," says Kersti Bruining, a neurologist with Munson Medical Center.

Dr. Bruining says people need to remember to act fast if someone they know is having a stroke. Some specific symptoms include: sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm or legs, sudden confusion, trouble speaking or walking, trouble seeing, dizziness and severe headache without any cause.

Dr. Bruining says high blood pressure is most associated with stroke, so it's critical to keep it under control.

"Smoking is also heavily associated with stroke, also diabetes, high cholesterol and overweight," says Dr. Bruining.

Rusheleau says rehab was by far the hardest part of her road to recovery, but says her take home message goes beyond that.

"Don't think it can't happen to you because it can when you least expect it. I mean I was only 44 years old and if you're breathing you can have one. keep yourself as healthy as possible because you do not know," says Rusheleau.

For more information about stroke click here.

For a direct link to the Grand Traverse Bay Area Stroke Club click here.