by: Wendy Corona Updated:ATLANTA —
Doctors are referring to the Southeast as the Stroke Belt, and they’ve been seeing a rise in the number of younger stroke victims in the region.
While the decrease in age may be a surprise to many, youth can be an advantage in survival and rehabilitation.
Amanda Parks’ Facebook page chronicles her journey from stroke victim to Shepherd Center patient. A mother of two, Parks was only 37 when the stroke struck March 2.
“My daughter asked me, ‘Mom, what’s wrong? You can only move half your body,’” said Parks.
Dr. Ford Vox, a staff physiatrist at the Shepherd Center said, “She would’ve died had she not gone to the hospital when she did. It was the early treatments that saved her life.”
Part of Parks’ skull had to be removed to reduce swelling on the right side of her brain. Parks wears a helmet now to protect her skull.
Doctors warn that stroke knows no age.
“The No. 1 most important factor that everyone needs to know is what their blood pressure is,” said Vox.
The average age range of a stroke rehab patient is between 60 - 75. At Shepherd Center, the average stroke patient is in their 40s.
With her army of support by her side, Amanda graduated from rehab to a new reality.
“They tend to be these patients on the younger side that we’re trying to focus on and offer the most intensive therapy to because we know that there are many more decades ahead,” said Dr. Vox.
Parks’ husband of nearly 12 years is taking it much like her, one day, one step, at a time.
“My wife made it and the mother of my children is still here, and we’re still a unit and that’s the most important thing,” said Keith Parks. “That’s what I’m thankful for.”
Meanwhile, Amanda Parks is a mixture of nervous excitement heading home for the first time in two and a half months. Her advice to others is “pay attention to your body. The sooner you get help for a stroke, the better off you’re going to be,” she said.
Minutes matter in getting medical attention and for Amanda Parks, it mattered how she took the physical challenge. She wasn’t just going to exit the building. Standing tall, supported by a walker, braces and two therapists, Amanda Parks took steps.
She made a beeline to her daughter and gave 15-year-old Tia a hug, saying, “I love you.”
And with that, Amanda Parks showed just how far she’d come.
After a weekend at home in Forsyth County, she will continue outpatient rehabilitation on Monday.