A stroke can happen at any age
Celeste Ask woke up with a headache. This wasn't the first headache she had that week, but she didn't think much of it.
For Ask, it was a normal Monday, and that meant she had to go to work. After informing her boss that she didn't feel well, she went back to her desk and picked up her phone to make a call.
"The next thing I remember I was laying on the ground," Ask said.
On June 6, 2011, the young mother of two from Farmington, had suffered a stroke at the age of 33. Ask recalled being quickly brought to the hospital, which is the last thing she remembers of her stroke and the three weeks that followed. After three weeks of intensive care, Ask then had to go through physical rehabilitation to work. Naturally independent, she said she had a difficult time not being able to do everything she used to and having to ask friends and family for help.
"Being so young and so healthy, you don't understand the fact that if you have a stroke as massive as mine, it can completely change your life," said Ask.
A stroke occurs when blood supply to the brain is interrupted or severely reduced, depriving the brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients. Complications of a stroke include paralysis or loss of muscle movement, memory loss or thinking difficulties and changes in behavior, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Stroke is the leading cause of disability in the United States, with someone having a stroke every 40 seconds and someone dying of a stroke every four minutes, according to the Minnesota Stroke Association.
Shortly after Ask had her stroke, she was contacted by the Minnesota Stroke Association, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising stroke awareness. Similar to many Minnesotans, she never had heard of the organization. After the Minnesota Stroke Association offered Ask and her family resources to get through the difficult time they found themselves in, she knew she had to give back.
Ask has participated in many Minnesota Stroke Association events, including walking in the Minnesota Stroke Association's Strides for Stroke walk in which she has raised more $1,000 for the organization each year she has participated. Ask also has committed herself to sharing her story, speaking about her experiences at several Minnesota Stroke Association events.
"I have met so many people through the Stroke Association," Ask said. "I've always wanted to give my help back."
Although Ask has taken the experience of her stroke in stride, one common misconception she still faces is that only old people can have a stroke. She said a lot of people are surprised when they find out she had a stroke, and many people have no idea it could happen to anybody, no matter the age.
"It's a shock when people have them at such a young age. It's almost like it's not accepted," said Ask. "People don't get it."
With May being Stroke Awareness Month, Ask stresses the need for people to educate themselves on the causes of a stroke, ways to prevent having a stroke and what to do if a loved one suffers from a stroke. She also said she wishes stroke prevention was publicized and talked about more to remove stigma and common misconceptions about this life-altering medical emergency. She said if it was talked about more, maybe those who have experienced a stroke wouldn't feel so isolated.
"I think it's important that people who have had strokes realize that they are not the only ones and to look at it in a positive way," Ask said.
For more information on stroke prevention and what to do if someone you love has a stroke, visit the Minnesota Stroke Association website: strokemn.org .