Richmond stroke survivor shares her story

May is National Stroke Awareness Month
Published: May. 24, 2022 at 6:37 PM EDT|Updated: May. 24, 2022 at 7:06 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) -Often, when people hear “stroke,” they associate the disease with older people. But statistics show that younger people, especially women, are becoming more at risk.

When you meet Skylar Hudgins, you’d never know that her entire life would change in an instant just a few short years ago.

“I just suddenly had this wave of like vertigo wash over me,” Hudgins recalls.

She paid a visit to the NBC12 studios to share details from that fateful day.

“My friend said, the left side of your face is drooping. I think you’re having a stroke,” Hudgins said. “And I remember looking right at them and saying, I’m too young to have a stroke.”

But as she quickly learned on that day in August of 2015, her friend was right.

“The biggest thing that we’re seeing is younger women are not as aware that stroke is a major risk factor,” says American Heart Association Executive Director Michelle Nostheide.

Nostheide says Hudgins’s situation is becoming more and more common.

“One in five women will have a stroke. So we need to get a lot more awareness out there about both its signs and how to prevent a stroke,” Nostheide said.

One of the main ways the A.H.A. teaches signs of a stroke is with the acronym, F.A.S.T.

“So the acronym is F.A.S.T.,” “F” stands for face drooping. “ A” is for arm weakness, “S’ is for speech difficulty, and “T” is for time to call 911,” said Nostheide. “So what you want to do is if you recognize that there might be something going on with someone, either yourself or someone you’re with, you can assess ‘F.A.S.T.”

Luckily, that is precisely what Hudgin’s friend did, which was a critical step in her survival.

“My friend drove me to the hospital. We got there probably within five or 10 minutes of the onset of symptoms,” Hudgins says.

Hudgins’ situation is unique because her stroke was largely unpreventable. But with, increased statistics and recent prominence in the news, like young model Hailey Bieber, recently suffering from a stroke, led us to question the experts.

“Some of the causes, especially particularly in women that may lead to stroke are use of oral contraceptives, genetic predisposition to increase clotting like a fake blood is, you know, a layman’s terms to say that increase clotting disorders, heavy alcohol consumption, smoke the more you smoke, the higher the risk,” says Dr. Shradda Mainali, director of clinical research for stroke and neurocritical care at Virginia Commonwealth University.

“What I always tell my patients, and I always tell everyone, is having a stroke does not mean that your life is over. It’s a condition you can recover from,” Dr. Mainali says.

Hudgins is a prime example of how a patient can recover.

After months of treatment and rehabilitation, she says she was able to make a full recovery.

“There’s definitely some like numbness and tingling that still persists,” she says. “It’s been almost seven years, but for the most part, I’ve been able to strengthen my muscles so I can have less balance problems and try to live my life as normally as possible.”

That’s why she finds it necessary to share her story to educate and prevent what happened to her from happening to other young women.

“I would say most strokes can’t be prevented. But there’s also a lot of things that you can do to make sure that it doesn’t happen. So you know, eating healthy, exercising, you know, moving your body, all of those things are really important—just kind of long term. So even though my stroke couldn’t have been prevented at the time, I try to do all those things now to make sure I don’t have one in the future,” Hudgins finishes.

Hudgins lives in the area and recently just got married. She works as an advocate and volunteer with the local chapter of the A.H.A. The Central Virginia A.H.A is having an event called “Cycle Nation” tomorrow night at Tang and Biscuit in Scott’s Addition.

Check-in starts at 5:30 p.m., and you can get more information here.

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