BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — May is recognized as National Stroke Awareness Month, a time to increase awareness about the signs and symptoms of a stroke. 

Our Lady of the Lake is the leader in Louisiana when it comes to stroke care. The Medical Stroke Director and a stroke survivor discussed the signs and symptoms in May.

Jessica Pannell, Executive Assistant, Administrative Office at Our Lady of the Lake, was 29 years old when she had a stroke. She was living a healthy, normal life. However, Pannell noticed a change in her vision as she was dropping off her daughter on June 12, 2019.

“I brought her to daycare, I was trying to sign her in, you know check her in for the day, and all of a sudden my vision, it was like I couldn’t see. I didn’t have a headache, I didn’t feel weird, it was just that I couldn’t see,” said Pannell.

She said she quickly got in her car and headed straight to the hospital. When she arrived at Our Lady of the Lake, her colleagues rushed her to the emergency room.

“I remember the whole thing, but I couldn’t see so I remember I was trying to keep my head down because I know a lot of people here,” said Pannell.

Pannell was later diagnosed by the medical staff and after a lengthy examination. They told her she was suffering from a stroke.

“I feel like after it happened, I was just a mess. It’s pretty scary that it could happen to anyone,” said Pannell. 

Her vision was never fully restored and now she will have to live with a partial blind spot.

“I am a lot better now, I can talk about it and I am able to do most things. I do think about it probably every day,” said Pannell.

Pannell said she is also grateful for the fast response from the medical team. The Medical Stroke Director of Our Lady of the Lake, Gary Walker, said the sooner you can get to the hospital, the better for treatment.

“Probably the most important thing you can do. There is a saying ‘time is brain’ and so every minute you go without treatment you are potentially losing millions of brain cells,” said Walker.

He also said it is vital to know the warning signs of a stroke. You can use the Acronym BE FAST to remember the signs.

“The letter ‘B’ stands for a sudden offset of balance difficulties. ‘E’ stands for any sudden abnormality with eye movement or eye vision. ‘F’ stands for facial weakness or facial droop. ‘A’ stands for arm weakness. ‘S’ stands for speech difficulty or slurring your speech or having trouble getting the words out and ‘T’ stands for time,” said Walker.    

Major risk factors for having a stroke include high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol levels, and smoking. Anyone can have a stroke. However, it is much more common as you get older.