This Stroke Awareness Month, local mother-daughter-duo Lauren and Brynn Knight are teaming up for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women Duo of Impact. For Lauren and Brynn, it’s all about sharing their personal story of triumph.
In the summer of 2017, Lauren was pregnant with her third child when she collapsed at the checkout of her local Target. At the hospital, the doctor informed her that she’d had a stroke. Apparently, it wasn’t her first.
When the doctor told her that she’d had a previous stroke, Lauren immediately knew when it had taken place – in 2014 when she gave birth to her second child, Brynn. Her labor had been difficult; she had to be heavily medicated, something she had not needed with her first delivery. While putting herself together before leaving the hospital, she noticed her face looked different. When she smiled, the right side of her face wouldn’t move. Her eyes looked funny. A nurse told her that she’d likely had mild Bell’s Palsy and would be fine in a few days. She went home but noticed that her body stayed swollen, and she had a headache that just wouldn’t go away. Every now and then, her right eye would go blind.
“For three years, doctors struggled to identify the cause of my issue,” says Lauren. “The right side of my face was always slightly off. At one point, they told me that I had white spots on my brain and that I probably had MS. Then I was told it was just migraines. But I’ve suffered from migraines my whole life. This felt different, but I was an otherwise healthy woman in my twenties. At one point doctors thought I might be a hypochondriac.”
So, she just lived with it. Until her body couldn’t any longer.
“I wish I had known then how to be my own advocate. To listen to my body, know that something was off, and to push for answers. I spent three years in a constant wave of wondering what is wrong with me and why doesn’t anyone believe me!? But I did not know enough at the time to keep pushing.”
Once she had officially been diagnosed as a stroke survivor, it led to the discovery that Lauren was born with a congenital heart issue called PFO, Paten Formula Ovale – a hole in her heart between the two chambers. It’s something everyone is born with and normally closes on its own. In Lauren’s case, it resulted in a rare blood clot to develop and cause a stroke.
She lived on blood thinners through the remainder of her pregnancy. After giving birth to a healthy son, Lauren was connected with a cardiologist leading a study on pregnant women with PFO. The study involved installing a new device which reduced recovery time from 30 days to just 3 days – gifting Lauren more precious time with her new baby. Today, Lauren is the thriving mother of three kiddos thanks to advancements in stroke and heart treatment.
“Brynn and I are advocating for the American Heart and Stroke Association first and foremost because they are the largest funder of research outside of the federal government. I am here today thanks to a history of scientific advancements that allow me to lead a normal life. That is such a blessing and I wish to help that legacy continue.”
“So many women aren’t aware of the health risks we face for just being women. 1 in 5 women will suffer a stroke, and pregnancy increases our risk,” says Lauren. “Go Red is helping to empower all women. I want my daughter growing up to be an advocate for herself. By sharing my story, I hope to be a source of encouragement. If just one person finds the strength to champion their own health, then I’ll be happy.”
To spot a stroke, just remember: FAST! Face Drooping, Arm Weakness, Speech Difficulty = Time to Call 9-1-1.
For resources and more, visit GoRedforWomen.org or Heart.org