Stacey Yepes, 49, won't ever forget that day in March when the left side of her body went numb and her speech started to slur. Because of her age, the Ontario, Canada, resident couldn't quite believe that she was having a stroke, and yet she knew the signs were there because she had repeatedly seen public service announcements about stroke symptoms. Stacey's symptoms passed within 10 minutes, but she headed for the emergency room to get checked out.
After examining her, doctors there told her it was stress and advised her to practice calming breathing techniques, according to a report on The Today Show. Heading to her car, the strange symptoms returned. But Yepes was reluctant to go back into the emergency room, assuming the diagnosis would be the same.
Just one day later, it happened again as Yepes was driving her car. The tingly feeling was back and her left side went numb. "I pulled the car over and used my phone to take a video," she says. "I could hear my voice slur, and could feel that my face was frozen." A second video shows her trying to take a drink while the fluid drools down her face.
Yepes took the video and went directly to another hospital. That video served as startling evidence of a stroke in progress. Her mouth was clearly drooping, she couldn't lift her left arm, and she was unable to smile. Doctors this time agreed it was a stroke. In fact, Stacey had experienced three strokes.
Her MRI clearly showed a white spot where brain tissue had been damaged. Yepes is getting therapy at a rehab center and has been told that she will likely make a full recovery. But she wonders, "If I had been correctly diagnosed the first time, would I be in rehab today?"
Mini-strokes occur when there is a temporary drop in blood supply to the brain that deprives it of oxygen. Symptoms include weakness or paralysis of one side of the body, confusion, speech or vision difficulties, and quick loss of balance.
"High blood pressure or cholesterol, diabetes, and things we normally associate with older people are happening more often in younger people, who can present with a stroke," Cheryl Jaigobin, MD, a neurologist at Toronto Western Hospital, told NBC News.
Yepes' advice is simple. "Don't hesitate to get a second opinion. Time is brain, so the quicker you get diagnosed, the better chance you'll have of recovering."