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Stroke survivor offers wisdom: "Whatever you have in life, you have to embrace it"

susan byrd stroke hillcrest medical center
Posted at 4:25 AM, May 31, 2024

TULSA, Okla. — May is Stroke Awareness Month. Not only is it important to learn about strokes—but also to tell the stories of survivors.

Even if someone has never had a stroke, chances are they know somebody who has.

Nearly 800,000 people suffer a stroke each year in the United States, with the Stroke Awareness Foundation reporting that more than 140,000 of them die.

Susan Byrd was at the fairgrounds in September 2023 when she nearly died from a stroke.

Luckily, she and her family were at a large event with plenty of medics close by. She was then treated at Hillcrest Medical Center.

susan byrd hillcrest medical center stroke
Susan Byrd with her occupational therapist, speech therapist, and physical therapist at Hillcrest Medical Center.

Eight months after the fact, she told us it’s an “ongoing recovery” because she still has some trouble finding words.

“It’s just everyday things that you just— you would’ve done all time, then all of a sudden, you’re like, ‘I can’t remember what this word is,’” Byrd said. “And that’s scary.”

“I wouldn’t want anyone to ever have a stroke. But whatever you have in life, you have to embrace it and you have to just go with it and just move on from that,” she emphasized.

2 News asked Byrd what she would tell others who may face this experience someday. She said to trust the doctors, nurses, therapists, and everybody taking care of the patient. She also told us that family support is key.

Soon, she will get a stadium full of support as she’s set to toss a ball from the pitcher’s mound at ONEOK Field.

susan byrd stroke hillcrest medical center
Susan Byrd with members of her family.

“I know some people get kind of scared,” she said. “But no, no, I’m not really scared. I’m just excited ‘cause it’s fun.”

She’ll throw that ceremonial pitch on June 13.

How to prevent and spot stroke

Dr. Yasser Khorchid, an interventional neurologist at Hillcrest, told 2 News there are quite a few ways people can control to lower the likelihood of strokes, like certain lifestyle choices.

In fact, 80 percent of strokes are preventable, per the SAF.

“High blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol… smoking is a very important factor,” he explained. “So, limiting those or maybe exercising, having like a bodyweight in the kind of like favorable range… all of that can prevent strokes from happening.”

Dr. Khorchid said there are things outside our control, like family history.

If a person has a parent or sibling who suffered a stroke, they have a higher chance of having one, too.

Despite that, Khorchid said there are more tools nowadays to help stroke patients than during any other time in history.

“Now we have tools that we can go up through the blood vessels in the body and get the clot and pull it out of the body, literally,” he pointed out. “And a lot of patients get significant improvement and some of them, even, they go back to normal self.”

When spotting stroke symptoms, Khorchid told us people should follow the acronym B.E.F.A.S.T.T.

  • B - Balance (i.e. a sudden balance change or trouble standing)
  • E - Eyes (i.e. vision loss or double-vision)
  • F - Face (i.e. facial drop.)
  • A - Arms (i.e. weakness or numbness in the arms or legs)
  • S - Speech (i.e. slurred speech, an inability to talk, or trouble understanding)
  • T - Terrible Headache
  • T - Time Last Seen Normal

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