Eastern Iowa woman shares miraculous recovery from stroke during awareness month

Knowing the warning signs of a stroke could help save someone’s life like it helped save 39-year-old Jessica Walters.
Published: May. 5, 2021 at 7:39 AM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - May is National Stroke Awareness Month. A stroke happens when blood flow to the brain is interrupted. It’s also the 5th leading cause of death in the country.

It’s possible for anyone to have a stroke at any age. And that’s what happened to 39-year-old Jessica Walters.

Knowing the warning signs could help save someone’s life as it helped save hers.

It was a normal day in March for Walters and her family. That is until she started experiencing a bad headache.

But Walters didn’t think it could be much. Her husband telling her to get some rest. Things seemed fine, until about one week later.

“I got up and I got out of bed and my whole body just shifted to the right. Like I had no balance and I couldn’t walk,” Walters said.

Walters texted her husband for help, who noticed her speech slurred from talking over the phone.

But by the time Walter got to Mercy Hospital’s ER she couldn’t stand. To make things worse, she later lost sensation in both of her legs. “Like I would stand up and my legs would literally shake. Like I literally had no control over my body,” Walters said.

Doctors weren’t sure what was going on, being a stroke usually affects just one side of the body.

The acronym “FAST” is an easy way to remember the sudden signs of stroke. It helps people look for warnings such as facial drooping, arm strength, speech, and deciding when to call 911.

But Jessica’s case was different being she lost sensation on both sides of her body. Doctors eventually diagnosed her with Wallenberg syndrome - a rare condition in which a stroke occurs in the brain stem.

“They would lift my leg and it would just drop,” Walters explained.

One week after her stroke, she was able to take her first steps again using a walker with the help of therapy.

Now, more than a month later, she’s walking on her own. A recovery that Dr. Abdullah Alwahdani, a cardiologist with Mercy Medical Center says is miraculous. And likely from seeking immediate help.

“When there is a change in any of the senses, then we need to seek medical care immediately. Stroke is treatable. Time is precious,” Alwahdani explained.

Alwahdani said the sooner medical help is available when symptoms appear, the better chance for a recovery.

“Call 911. Do not drive to the hospital,” Alwahdani said. He added that one-third of stroke victims drive themselves to the hospital. He reminds people to call 911 for help or have a family member assist in getting them to the ER.

Walter says she’s feeling about 90 percent back to normal and feels fortunate to be standing. “I feel beyond blessed. I feel so fortunate and lucky. I have nerve pain in my left leg and that’s about it,” Walters said.

In the meantime, she’s living each day with gratitude and encourages others to look out for the warning signs. She thanks the hospital staff and reminds other stroke victims to never give up.

“You just don’t think at the age of 39, or any young age, that you are having something serious happen,” Walters added.

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