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Faces of Kansas City: Woman shares story of life after a stroke

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INDEPENDENCE, MO (KCTV) -

One woman's story is unbelievable, but every part of it is indeed true and inspiring.

"My symptoms started at 10:30 in the morning on Memorial Day, May 27 of 2013," Teri Ackerson said.

What happened next would change her world forever.

"The numbness started in my left arm," she said. "And I couldn't speak. I had a complete facial palsy, it was just kind of sliding down."

Ackerson and her son Parker were driving home from Starbucks when the unthinkable happened.

"He said, 'Mom you're having a stroke' and I shook my head yes. I pointed to the clock on the dash so he knew what time the symptoms started so he could relay that info to the doctors," Ackerson.

If you're wondering how she knew to mark the time when her stroke happened, it's because she's the stroke coordinator at Centerpoint Medical Center in Independence, MO.

"It was scary because I knew what could happen. I know all the numbers, I know that stroke is the leading cause of disability. I knew it was affecting my speech, I knew I couldn't feel my tongue so, in my brain, I was thinking of the worst case scenario," Ackerson said.

Ironically, the horrible episode that shook her to her core now enables Ackerson to build a special bond with people who are desperate for help.

"When I work with patients now in that acute stage of stroke, the fear that I see in them I know was the fear I had in my eyes too and there's no bargaining with that," she said.

What's so surprising to those who know Ackerson is that she even had a stroke in the first place.

"I'm very healthy, I take very good care of myself. As a nurse, you're a caregiver, you worry about everyone else, so I didn't think it would happen to me," she said.

She said 80 percent of all strokes are preventable, but because of a previously undetected heart defect hers was not.

Still, it would not break her spirit. Ackerson remains the perfect patient during rehab. She ran 12 miles just 12 days after her stroke.

Even more remarkable, just three months later she ran a marathon over the summer in Duluth, MN.

"I don't think it really hit me until mile 25. I had wanted that title of marathon runner and I was one and, for a split second, I was a marathoner and not just a stroke survivor and then after I could say I did run a marathon and I have survived a stroke," Ackerson said.

Ackerson wants people to know the sudden signs of stroke. Remember the acronym "FAST".

That stands for Face drooping. Arm weakness. Speech difficulty. Time to call 911.

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