Christmas Eve 2011 was picture perfect for 23-year-old Jessica Noble. She was in the kitchen of her Grain Valley, MO, home making Christmas treats with her young children, 1-year-old Lennox and 2-year-old Madeleine.
"I was baking cookies; making chocolate-covered pretzels," Noble remembered.
When her grandmother stopped by, Noble decided to take a quick break.
"I had a cold," Noble said. "So I thought I would lie down."
Very quickly it became clear that Noble was dealing with something much more serious than a cold.
"I was trying to re-situate myself and I couldn't move," Noble said.
When Noble was also unable to speak or respond to her family members, they called 911. The emergency medical technicians (EMTs) who assessed Noble quickly recognized her stroke-like symptoms and raced her to Saint Luke's Neuroscience Institute.
"The firefighter stood me up, 'cause I was leaning, and said, ‘Say bluebird,' and I couldn't say it," Noble said. "They carried me to the stretcher."
Noble's husband, Levi was contacted at work. When he arrived at the hospital, he said he couldn't believe the changes in his wife just hours after leaving a seemingly healthy person at home.
"The left side of her face was drooped," Levi Noble said. "It was a hollow, blank stare."
Within an hour-and-a-half of her ambulance ride, Jessica Noble was on the operating table.
"They removed a clot from my brain, through my groin," she said.
"It was about one-fifth of her brain that lost oxygen," Levi Noble added.
Jessica Noble's stroke is no longer that unusual for a woman of her young age. A recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reported that hospitalizations in girls between the ages of 5 to 14 and 35 to 44 for ischemic stroke have risen by 36 percent.
As medical director of Saint Luke's Neuroscience Institute, Dr. Marilyn Rymer said she is amazed by the constantly dropping age of stroke patients she's treated in her 31-year career.
"Early on, we kept thinking 'Wow, this person is only 40. Then wow, only 30,'" Rymer said. "And now we're not so surprised when we get people in their 20s and don't think a thing of it."
Rymer said people in their 20s are developing the kinds of conditions we only used to see in older people; hypertension, high blood pressure and diabetes. Jessica Noble's stroke was traced back to a heart problem she knew nothing about.
"It's a hole in the heart, between the upper chambers of the heart," Rymer explained. "It should close at birth, when baby takes its first breath. But in 20 percent of us there's a sliver of a hole left. And in some, it's quite large."
For most people, that hole never becomes an issue. Doctors believe Jessica Noble's birth control pills may have caused a potentially lethal clot to form and travel from her heart to her brain. When the clot lodged in the area that affects speech and language, her vocabulary shrank to just one phrase.
"All she could say was, 'I love you,'" Levi Noble said.
"I said I love you to the nurses," Jessica Noble added.
"Doing something that is automatic speech is what is left often," Rymer said. "So, the fact that her automatic speech is 'I love you' says a lot about her personality."
"Sometimes what is left is not so nice," Rymer added with a laugh.
Six months of speech therapy were needed to help Jessica Noble recover the rest of her speech and memory.
"I don't care if she remembers me, remembering the kids is all that matters," Levi Noble said.
Thankfully, that wasn't a problem. Jessica Noble remembered the people in her life. Other formerly routine tasks left her baffled.
"I didn't know how to work the microwave, how to cook with my right hand, work the stove, how to take a bath or shower," Jessica Noble said.
Despite all she's been through, Jessica Noble was truly lucky in so many ways. The EMTs ignored her young age, quickly diagnosed a stroke and got her the right treatment.
"Every minute means millions of nerve cells are dying," Rymer said. "Every minute counts."
If Jessica Noble's grandmother hadn't stopped by that Christmas Eve, her stroke may not have been discovered until it was too late.
"I would have died in front of my kids," Jessica Noble said.
Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
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