May is Stroke Awareness Month and we want to make sure you know what to look out for when it comes to signs and symptoms.
Michael Carlock's celebrating his 43rd birthday. He's healthy now, but suffered a scare last summer when he had a stroke.
"You know, I've always been athletic, always been active, but it blind-sided me. While I was in the shower, the whole left side of my body basically just dropped. I lost everything. I couldn't move anything. I could feel my body, but it wasn't going anymore," said Carlock.
Carlock's wife recognized the symptoms. She called 911 and he was airlifted to Huntsville Hospital. Doctors rushed to find a cause, but say nothing was turning up in tests.
"He didn't have diabetes, he wasn't a smoker, he didn't have long-standing high blood pressure and he was relatively young. In these patients, we start looking for unusual reasons. One of the unusual reasons for a stroke in a young patient is a PFO, that's a hole in the heart," said cardiologist, Dr. Warren Strickland.
Dr. Warren Strickland says a PFO caused Carlock's stroke. He's a cardiologist at Huntsville Hospital and says patent foramen ovals or PFOs are pretty common, but most cases aren't serious.
In Carlock's case, the hole in his heart caused abnormal blood flow, causing a blood clot at the base of his spine. Surgeons removed the clot, then closed the hole.
"Four or five years ago, the technology for addressing these holes required fairly major surgery, open the chest, open the heart, closing the hole and six to eight months recovery. Now we can go through the legs and these can be closed in less than an hour, then everyone goes home the next day," adds Dr. Strickland.
One Huntsville neurologist played a key part in Carlock's recovery. He says they acted quickly, which is crucial in every stroke case.
"Usually people without risk factors, it's hard to prevent because they don't have risk factors for stroke in the first place. But once they have symptoms, they have to call the emergency room immediately because we only have a limited time to intervene," said Dr. Theodros Megesha.
Doctors said warning signs consists of any facial drooping. Whether your arms drift when you raise them, and if your speech is slurred and watch the time.
You'll want to call 911 immediately if you feel any symptoms. Doctors say about two million brain cells die every minute a stroke goes untreated.
It's been about 10 months now since Carlock's stroke and he still gets check-ups with his neurologist. Every visit, his vision, strength, coordination and reflexes are all tested.
"According to Dr. Mengesha, I should've been in a wheelchair. You only have one body. You got to take care of it as best you can," said Carlock.
Doctors say they have about four hours to intervene if you have a stroke. If you wait any longer than eight hours to get to a hospital, strokes can cause permanent damage or be fatal.
Huntsville Hospital officials say they treated more than 1,100 stroke cases last year.
For information about stroke awareness just click here.