When you think of someone having a stroke, you probably think of the elderly. But more and more young people are becoming victims of this potentially deadly condition.
A woman who survived a stroke at 21 is sharing her story. She's hoping her story of survival and perseverance will help other young people.
Rocker Bret Michaels, football great Tedi Bruschi, actor Freddy Muniz have all have suffered strokes -- and all of them were young and healthy, when you consider what you might think is the typical age to suffer a stroke.
But nothing is typical when it comes to heart health.
Jenifer Schuerman was a college student working full time to put herself through school. For her 21st birthday she decided to celebrate in Las Vegas with her mother and brother.
"I was 21. You're invincible."
That belief of being bulletproof was shattered when she woke up one morning and collapsed. Jenifer, a healthy, symptom-free young woman, had a massive stroke. Doctors didn't think she'd live through that first night.
"I kept telling my family I survived I survived can you believe it I survived and laughing, because of course reality hadn't set in. my brain was still swelling," recalls Jenifer.
It's been a long eight years for the Schuerman family. Jenifer is resilient -- taking on any challenge rehab has to offer and now, she's gaining back some of her independence.
Construction crews are finishing the demolition on the garage adjacent to Jenifer's house, where she lives with her mother Susan. There they'll build a bungalow of sorts -- Jenifer's very own apartment.
"She did have a stroke, she was medically compromised but her life isn't over and it isn't all about being under moms thumb," says Susan Schuerman.
Over the last two decades the number of young people between the ages of 20 and 40 who've had a stroke has more than doubled.
Dr. Kay Wing with Swan Rehab Center told me far too many young people ignore the signs of a stroke.
"Don't hesitate, don't think you're too young for a stroke, get to the hospital," says Dr. Wing.
Jenifer did get treatment in time to prevent catastrophic damage to the brain or even death -- her life is a light for others who live by her mantra "strength over stroke."
"There is not only hope and life after a stroke but there could be a really good life after a stroke."
"I'm still the same person I always was, I have difficulties now that I didn't before, but I'm a much stronger person than I was before," says Jenifer.
"She is the face of hope," says Susan.
Some of the warning signs: pain in the arms and legs, numbness of the limbs, and difficulty speaking or making sense.
Jenifer's life was put on hold eight years ago and now it's moving forward after a lot of hard work. She graduates from ASU in December with a degree in social work.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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