Do you know the symptoms of a stroke? Why this Tucson woman says it could save a life

Published: May. 17, 2023 at 10:59 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - May is recognized as National Stroke Awareness Month. But would you know the signs of a stroke if it were happening to you or someone you know?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 800,000 people in the United States have a stroke every year.

This is one of the many reasons Tucson local Lacey Van Wegen is sharing her story and raising awareness that stroke could happen at any age.

“When you face a medical trauma at any age, it is just that, it is traumatic,” Van Wegen said.

In May 2019, the unthinkable happened to then-28-year-old Lacey Van Wegen.

“I found myself working on my computer where I couldn’t read the words on my computer screen. After that, I went to try to type and I couldn’t type properly,” Van Wegen tells 13 News. “After that, I went to try to speak and I wasn’t able to correctly form words.”

Dr. Micah Etter is a stroke expert at the University of Arizona. He said it’s important that people know when someone is having a stroke.

“Everybody out there needs to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of somebody having a stroke,” Dr. Etter said.

After several tests, doctors were finally able to tell Van Wegen she had suffered a “vertebral artery dissection,” which is a common cause of stroke in young people.

“Any history of trauma to the head or neck can potentially lead to these kinds of dissections and cause a stroke,” Dr. Etter said.

Van Wegan said she is living proof a stroke can happen to anyone at any time.

“This was all at a time I was about to get married,” Van Wegan said. “My husband said to my doctor, “You need to make sure I am able to marry this woman.”

“We like our patients to “be fast” in recognizing the signs or symptoms of a stroke and get to your closest hospital, call 911 right away, and get to your closest hospital,” Dr. Etter said. “So we can administer timely and effective treatment.”

Doctor Etter and Van Wegen agree it’s important to have regular check-ins with your doctors and know help and treatment are available.

“A message to be aware of invisible illness and everyone deals with their own battles,” Van Wegen said. “Just be sympathetic because you never know what people are going through. "

Van Wegen is competing in HERS Magazine’s “Ms. Health and Fitness” competition. This is where she hopes to be able to share her story and raise even more awareness of stroke’s impact on young people.

If you would like to support her journey, you can find the voting information here.

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