May 09, 2014
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Bi-Lo Holdings Senior Vice President of Marketing Mary Kellmanson suffered a stroke three years ago and says she wants people to understand the warning signs because it can happen to anyone, at any age, regardless of their health.​

When Mary Kellmanson got her first indication that a stroke was imminent, she didn’t recognize it. Bi-Lo Holdings’ senior vice president of marketing was 43, in good health and had no medical issues or known family history of stroke, so she wrote off the episode of a one-sided pain in her head and brief trouble speaking as a typical headache and ignored it.

Six months later in April 2011, Kellmanson suffered a stroke during a meeting. She was lucky to be near people who recognized it, and today, she suffers no ill effects. But she says the stroke wouldn’t have happened if she had paid attention to her body’s first warning months earlier.

“I was here at work, and was having trouble talking,” she said. “I could think of the words, but I couldn’t get them to come out of my mouth,” she said. “When I had that indicator, I should have gone to a doctor.”

The brief episode is called a transient ischemic attack (TIA), or “mini-stroke,” and is a key indicator that a stroke – a blockage in arteries in the brain – could be imminent.

After she suffered the full stroke, not only was emergency help called quickly, but the clot that caused it cleared relatively quickly, leaving only a few ill effects that were alleviated with physical therapy.

Kellmanson says she’s thankful that it didn’t happen while she was driving or while no one else was around, because it could have been disastrous. Strokes must be treated quickly before they cause brain damage.

Today, she wants to share her experience with other people, no matter their age.

“The doctor said, ‘you had a stroke.’ I said, ‘I’m too young for a stroke.’ He said, ‘If you have a brain, you can have a stroke,’” she said.

According to the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association, someone in the U.S. has a stroke every 40 seconds. May is American Stroke Month, and the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association want Americans to know whether they are at risk for stroke and how to recognize two key warning signs of stroke.

According to the American Stroke Association, these are the key warning stroke signs to know. The acronym F.A.S.T has been developed to help people learn and remember these signs.

·        F - Face Drooping: Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.

·        A - Arm Weakness: Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

·        S - Speech Difficulty: Is speech slurred, are they unable to speak, or are they hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence like, “The sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?

·        T - Time to call 9-1-1: If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get them to the hospital immediately.

Additional stroke signs include: Sudden severe headache with no known cause; sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; or sudden confusion or trouble understanding.

A free stroke risk assessment through the American Stroke Association’s Together to End Stroke initiative is available online at This assessment helps people evaluate their personal stroke risk and work with their doctor to begin a prevention plan.

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