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Stroke nurse survives stroke, shares story for World Stroke Day

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INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- The chances of having a stroke at some point in your life are one in six.  Certain factors such as smoking and high blood pressure put you at higher risk yet it can happen to anyone.

Teri Ackerson is a nurse who's stroke coordinator at Centerpoint Medical Center.  She know how her patients feel.

"There's this fear in your eyes, and you've lost control and you can't use your body, and often times I gently whisper in their ear, 'I've been there'," said Ackerson.

It was just last Memorial Day.  Ackerson's left arm suddenly went numb and she couldn't speak as she was driving with her 16-year-old son.

"And Parker said, 'Mom, do I need to call 911?' I shook my head no and he said, 'Mom, you're having a stroke.'  I shook my head yes," Ackerson recalled.

He took over driving and in just seven minutes, she was in the emergency room of a hospital with a stroke center.  The drug TPA was injected to bust up the blood clot and stop the death of brain cells.

So why did a healthy 43-year-old who's a runner have a stroke?  It turns out that Ackerson had a hole in her heart called a PFO that can cause clots to form.

Incredibly, Ackerson ran a marathon less than a month later though her arm was still weak.  She did her own physical therapy while running.

"I twisted and turned my hand different ways every other mile," said Ackerson.

She's regained use of the arm. She's working to overcome some weakness in her face.

Ackerson says remember the word FAST -- Face, Arm, Speech, Time.  If there's sudden weakness in the face or arm or trouble speaking, call 911.  Get to an emergency room immediately.

Because the nurse did, she can continue to help others who've had strokes.  And she can run.  Ackerson is just 80 miles shy of her goal of 1,000 miles in 2013 -- the year she had a stroke.

Tuesday, October 29, is World Stroke Day.  The American Heart Association has a new app that features signs of a stroke and calls 911 directly.  To learn more, click here.

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