Strokes don't discriminate. They can strike anyone at any age.
And one Overland Park man suffered long-term consequences because those around him thought it was impossible for a 29-year-old man to suffer a stroke. He's now speaking out for the first time to KCTV5 News in an attempt to raise awareness and warn others about the risks and signs of a stroke.
Paul Ansaldo was at a sporting event when his vision began to get blurry. He couldn't make out the numbers on jerseys. He then became so dizzy that he couldn't walk straight.
Those around him thought he was a young man who drank too much at a sporting event. That assumption delayed getting him the help he desperately needed before he collapsed. The stroke caused permanent damage including to his speech.
"When my stroke happened, many people thought, 'a young guy at a football game, intoxicated.' That wasn't the case," Ansaldo said. "I didn't have a drink of alcohol that day."
Initially doctors told him that he would never walk or talk again. He has fought hard and now can speak, but his speech sounds slurred.
"Some people actually question my intellect, which is not the thing to do," he said.
He had to relearn simple tasks and even his ABCs.
"It's embarrassing that a grown man can't do the basic things in life," Ansaldo said.
Because of his challenges, he wants to help others. He experienced the classic symptoms of a stroke.
Teri Ackerson, stroke coordinator at Centerpoint Medical Center, said the best thing to remember is the acronym FAST: Facial droop, an arm that is weak or numb, speech that is slurred or difficulty speaking or finding your words and time is of the essence to call 911 to prevent brain damage.
Doctors have typically a 3-hour window to give victims a clot-busting drug in an effort to save lives and reduce damage.
And if you do suffer a stroke, never give up, Ansaldo says.
"I'm still here," he said. "Never settle. What you are today always gets better tomorrow."
Ansaldo volunteers with the American Heart Association, which is having its annual Heart Walk and Stroke Walk/5K Run this Saturday. Click here for more on this Take 5 to Care event.
Copyright 2014 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
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