Young stroke victim shares experience, anxieties

By Nuvance Health staff  |  5/4/2020

In honor of May’s stroke awareness month, Poughkeepsie resident Jenna Williams, 38, recalled the Sunday in early January when the unbelievable happened.

That morning, Jenna woke up feeling dazed, dizzy and unrested. She tried to go to the bathroom, but her right hand couldn’t grab the doorknob. She went to see what her husband, Sam, and 4-year-old son, Logan, were up to, but soon returned to her bed, feeling exhausted. The room spun. Her head ached. She struggled to yell for Sam. Only a whisper would come out.

“I tried to tell him, ‘I can’t move my arm,’ but he said, ‘What are you saying?’ I was getting frustrated,” she said.

Sam could tell his wife needed immediate medical attention. At Vassar’s Emergency Department, she was treated for blood clots that were wreaking havoc on the left side of Jenna’s brain.

“I was in tears. I am 38 years old and being told I had a stroke,” said Jenna, whose doctor suspects she has Antiphospholipid syndrome – a rare autoimmune disorder characterized by recurring blood clots.

Jenna wants people to understand what young stroke victims go through. They fear another stroke and worse, dying before getting to experience half their life. They suffer headaches and exhaustion, and some have life-long disabilities. They worry about their children growing up without them. They worry about side effects of blood thinners and whether they can get pregnant, or even should. And they live in disbelief, asking why this happened to them.

“It was a major wakeup call, that health is a major priority,” Jenna said.  For information about stroke, including symptoms and treatment, visit https://patients.healthquest.org/services/neurosciences/stroke-and-cerebrovascular-disease/