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Surviving Stroke: A Personal Story

Brain Scientist Jill Bolte Taylor on Her Stroke, Recovery, and the Warning Signs Everyone Needs to Know

Stroke Warning Signs: 5 Symptoms

In the dozen years since her stroke, Taylor has fully recovered her abilities. She has written a memoir, appeared on Oprah's TV show, and delivered speeches about her stroke experience that have been widely viewed online.

Taylor tells WebMD she always ends her speeches by teaching her audience this STROKE symptom acronym:

S -- speech or problems with language

T -- tingling or numbness in your body

R -- remember or any problems with memory

O -- off balance or any problems with coordination

K -- killer headache

E -- eyes or any problem with vision

"You might have just one or two or three of these. Rarely are you going to have all of them," Taylor says.

Most strokes are ischemic (clot-related) strokes, not bleeding strokes. And most bleeding strokes aren't caused by AVM. But any type of stroke is dangerous. Stroke is the No. 3 cause of death in the U.S. and a leading cause of disability.


Don’t Delay

Stroke is a medical emergency, so call 911 if you or someone else has stroke symptoms.

But Taylor says "a lot of people aren't going to call 911. There's a huge population of people who are just going to sit in denial of the whole thing."

That denial can be deadly.

"The biggest problem that the medical facilities are having now is that people are not coming soon enough after stroke. They're delaying it."

Taylor's advice: "If you're not comfortable calling 911, then call a friend and say, 'I'm having some neurological weirdness; call me back in 10 minutes or better yet, can you come over for a cup of coffee?'

"If that friend comes over and a half hour has passed, then that person's going to call 911," Taylor says. "Statistics show that more people will call 911 on someone else than they'll call on themselves."

Don't wait to see if possible stroke symptoms go away by themselves.

"As time passes, so does the ability to actually call 911... and you would never think that," Taylor says. "You would think, 'I'm going to pick up a phone and I'm going to dial a number.'"

Stroke Recovery: What Helped, What Didn't

Taylor's stroke recovery included relearning to read, to walk on snow, and to do laundry -- all with her mother's help. And she had to start from square one.

Taylor recalls her mother asking her, what's one plus one. "I paused for a moment, explored the contents of my mind, and responded, 'What's a one?'"

All that relearning took a lot of energy, and Taylor found herself needing 11 hours of sleep.

"The only way I got any rejuvenation was to go to sleep," Taylor says. "When I go to sleep, I shut down all new stimulation coming into my brain. My brain has time to make some sense of the stimulation it's already received; it calms itself down, it organizes, it files information. ... I needed people to let me sleep until I could wake."

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