Even now, nearly three years later, Kandi Schmitz of Lake Worth, Fla., finds it hard to believe she suffered a stroke.
Just days after turning 32 in September 2015, Schmitz, an insurance agent and married mother of two, was running in the annual Turtle Crawl 5K road race in Melbourne, Fla.
“It was my first time in that race, and I was training to run a marathon later that year,” she said. Throughout the race, she felt off: headachy, woozy, a little faint. She struggled to finish what should have been a quick, easy jaunt. “I just figured that a really bad migraine was coming on, so I took my prescription medication to prevent it.”
An hour later, at a fast-food restaurant, she felt worse. “I was dizzy and nauseous and needed to lie down.”
But nobody — not her paramedic husband, nor her family and friends (who included another paramedic, as well as nurses) — thought anything was seriously wrong.
“We figured I was just dehydrated or maybe had a virus — but to be safe, my husband took me to the emergency room at Holmes Regional Medical Center” in Melbourne.
By the time they arrived at the hospital, Schmitz’s husband noticed that her speech had become slightly slurred.
A quick CT scan revealed what two hours earlier would have been unthinkable: Schmitz had suffered an ischemic stroke. The cause: carotid arterial dissection.
“The artery had a microscopic tear, and, while it was trying to heal itself, a blood clot formed, blocking blood flow to my brain,” Schmitz said.
Because she was diagnosed so quickly, Schmitz could receive a clot-busting drug, tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), which must be administered within four hours of the onset of symptoms.
Late that night, she was transported to the Comprehensive Stroke Center at St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach, where she’d spend the next three days.
Schmitz’s doctors explained that arterial dissections like hers are one of the leading causes of strokes in young, otherwise healthy people.
Within six weeks, Schmitz said, she felt mostly recovered — but notices that she sometimes becomes fatigued more quickly than she used to.
She was on blood-thinning medication for six months after the stroke and will need to take 325 milligrams of aspirin daily for the rest of her life.
Overall, though, she feels blessed to have survived.