Sarah Porter knew something was wrong. Her body was tingling down one side, and her face was twitching uncontrollably. But still, the nurse was telling her to stop faking her symptoms. Then, just as Porter tried to argue back, she found herself unable to speak.
Porter is currently based in Portland, Maine. There, she works as a quality data coordinator at a neurosurgery clinic. And, to her, the job is a dream come true – not least because of her turbulent past.
In 2011, though, Porter was a college student like any other. Accordingly, she was working hard in preparation for her upcoming finals at the University of Maine.
And when Porter wasn’t occupied with studying, she liked to blow off steam by exercising. In fact, she was an accomplished three-sport athlete, jogged five times each week and was in peak physical condition.
However, one day, Porter was in her math class when she had a funny turn. It was as if her brain became clouded all of a sudden. And the next thing Porter knew, a student beside her had stopped what they were doing and had begun looking straight at her.
“The student sitting next to me said, ‘Whoa, are you feeling okay? I think you just had a seizure!’” Porter told Good Housekeeping in January 2017. “I said, ‘What? Absolutely not!’ But he was right — I had blacked out for a few seconds and didn’t realize what had happened.”
Porter somehow managed to make it to the end of her class. When she got up to leave, however, she felt a strange, tingling sensation in her right arm. She then found it impossible to move her right leg.
Concerned, Porter eventually managed to stagger back to her dorm room. But by that point her face had begun to spasm as well. So with no one around to turn to, the student rang her parents back home.
Porter’s mom is a doctor’s assistant, while her dad works as a nurse. And when their daughter told them her symptoms, they were worried. So they contacted Porter’s brother, who lived nearby, and asked him to take her to the ER.
Porter’s family thought she’d suffered a stroke. However, when she got to the hospital the nurse who checked her in was skeptical. “[She] said, ‘Oh, come on, stop faking! No one your age in good health has a stroke. You’re just trying to avoid taking your finals,’” Porter revealed.
However, Porter’s brother wasn’t going to have his concerns dismissed that easily and started quarreling with the nurse. Then, just as her brother was pleading for someone to examine his sister, a physician overheard the commotion and intervened.
What happened next was a complete blur for Porter. She awoke a day later in intensive care, where doctors told her that she had suffered a rare hemorrhagic stroke. And at this point, she was lucky to be alive.
Out of all the people who suffer a hemorrhage stroke, 30 percent die before they even reach a hospital. However, surgeons thought that a rare blood condition Porter had had since birth saved her life. The condition causes her blood to clot more quickly than is usual and therefore stemmed the bleeding in the brain.
Nevertheless, Porter wasn’t out of the woods just yet. She now had two options for treatment moving forward. On the one hand, she could have surgery to remove the tangle of blood vessels in her brain. Alternatively, she could decline to have an operation but risk suffering another stroke.
Reluctantly, Porter decided against surgery. Instead, she decided to continue with her studies. However, for the next three years, the prospect of another stroke was constantly on her mind. “I just couldn’t stop thinking about it coming back, happening again,” she revealed to the Daily Mail in February 2017.
But somehow, Porter managed to put her fears to the back of her mind. And she later moved to New York City to start her post-graduate degree at Colombia University. However, it was then that she suffered another stroke.
Fortunately, she immediately recognized what was happening and rushed to a nearby hospital. Porter subsequently underwent an operation on the tangled blood vessels in her brain, and she later had further surgery to treat an infection. But thankfully, she is now on the road to recovery.
Today, Porter is a passionate advocate for raising awareness about strokes. “I had felt that I was somehow defective,” she told Good Housekeeping. “But I finally realized that the best way for me to recover, especially emotionally, was to help other families like mine.”
Many people associate strokes with older people. However, seven to 15 people in every 100,000 aged below 45 will suffer one. What’s more, some symptoms of the condition can be subtle. These include face weakness, sickness and dizziness.
Thankfully for Porter, those around her suspected that something was severely wrong. And if it hadn’t been for her family’s medical training, who knows if she’d have survived. Now, Porter is able to spread the word about strokes and hopefully prevent any heartache for other families in the future.