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‘You just don’t realize what your brain can do’: Survivors share their stories during National Stroke Awareness Month

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts, according to the American Stroke Association.

Doctors have mentioned hypertension in adults like heart disease and other heath health problems, including diabetes can cause strokes, but they can be prevented with good cholesterol, weight loss and exercise.

Two survivors of strokes shared their stories with News 8 during National Stroke Awareness Month.

Fishers resident Kimberly Mundt, 36, is a mother of three and suffered from a major stroke in February 2020.

“I couldn’t swallow anything. I couldn’t eat all the foods that I use to eat, my taste was weird from the beginning. You just don’t realize what your brain can do and that was just one part of my brain,” Mundt said.

She said she had a headache all week and one day felt her arm go numb.

Mundt says she went into work and a friend noticed her face was drooping and wasn’t speaking fluidly. She was rushed to the hospital, went into surgery and spent a few days in the intensive care unit.

Mundt told News 8 she didn’t realize she had a stroke until after she woke up in the hospital. She went through physical, occupational and speech therapy for several months. She added that her speech is a work in progress.

“I feel like I struggled to talk, but it’s not as big as a struggle before. Before I couldn’t say my name and I couldn’t say my birthday,” Mundt said.

The mother said her three children ages six, eight and ten often help her.

Dr. Daniel Sahlein Neuro interventionalist at Goodman Campbell Brain and Spine of Ascension Saint Vincent Hospital said Mundt’s stroke was very rapidly identified by her friend who did an excellent job of calling EMS.

“EMS did an excellent job of bringing her to Ascension Saint Vincent of Indianapolis, the largest comprehensive stroke center in Central Indiana and getting her the help she needs from Goodman Campbell Brain and Spine so that we can do the catheter-based procedure so that we can extract the clot quickly, restore normal blood flow to the brain and get her as much function back as we could,” Sahlein said.

He says strokes can develop in any age group.

Hudson Hillis from Kokomo had a stroke when he was nearly two years old.

His mom, Leslie Hillis, is a pediatric physical therapist and says she noticed something wrong when she woke her son up from a nap.

She says he was crying, couldn’t stand or speak and his face was drooping.

She thought he maybe having a stroke, but the medical team at the hospital told her that children don’t have strokes. Turns out they were wrong.

Hillis says she rushed her son to another hospital to check for a stroke, where they began treatment. He is now five years old.

“The first myth about strokes is that children don’t have strokes. Children do have strokes at any age, particularly around the time that the baby is being born, which is that highest risk for strokes and then it goes back up during the teenage years,” Dr. Nihal Bakeer, a pediatric hematologist-oncologist at Indiana Hemophilia and Thrombosis Center (IHTC), said.

“After the stroke he couldn’t even sit up or hold his own head up,” Hillis said. “We completely lost the ability to use his right arm and leg, but we have regained so much.”

She says her son is now fully functional and he is very determined, so there is nothing that he won’t do if he puts his mind to it.

“It may not be the way that you or I do it, but he’ll get it done … He just finished up T-ball, just graduated from pre-school on May 26, so we are hitting those milestones. Obviously still have some deficits, but man, we are blessed,” Hillis said.

Bakeer mentioned her and other doctors are here to increase stroke awareness with early diagnosis and early intervention.

Both Mundt and Hillis are telling others who are recovering from a stroke that’s it’s a process and to take it one day at a time.

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