June 19, 2014 at 10:29 AM ET
If you’ve ever had trouble convincing a doctor that you really are sick, you’ll have no trouble understanding what happened to Stacey Yepes, who finally made her point with a selfie video.
Yepes, 49, clearly remembers that day in March when her left side went numb and her speech started to slur.
“Every public service announcement I’d ever seen kept flashing through my brain,” she said. “I thought, ‘you just had a stroke.’ But then I thought I’m just 48, I can’t be having a stroke.”
The bizarre feelings passed within 10 minutes and Yepes headed for the emergency room. But after examining her, doctors there told her it was just stress and she should practice breathing techniques.
On the way to her car, Yepes once again had the same strange symptoms. Once again they passed quickly. She considered going back to the ER, but figured they’d just tell her the same thing.
The next day as she was driving her car, she started to feel tingly again as her her left side went numb.
“I pulled the car over and took a video,” Yepes says. “I could hear my voice slur and could feel my face was frozen.”
The video is a startling documentation of a stroke in progress. Her mouth is clearly drooping. She tries to smile and can't. She has trouble lifting her left arm.
A second video shows what happened when she tried to take a drink: fluid drooled down her face.
Yepes took those videos to another hospital.
“I now had someone come in with me and I had the video,” she says. “I explained all the symptoms, the same as the first time.”
Using the new video, doctors agreed Yepes had a stroke. In fact, she had three. They were able to show her a white spot on an MRI where brain tissue had been damaged.
"Things that we usually associate with older age ... high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol, is happening more and more often in younger people, so young patients can present with a stroke," Dr. Cheryl Jaigobin, a neurologist at Toronto Western Hospital, told NBC News.
Mini-strokes occur when there is a temporary drop in the blood supply to the brain, depriving it of oxygen. Symptoms include weakness or paralysis on one side of the body, confusion, speech or vision difficulties and sudden loss of balance.
Yepes is now getting therapy at a rehab center and has been told she’ll most likely have a full recovery. She's taking medications that will reduce the risk of a future event. And she may be back at work as a legal secretary – part time, at least—by mid July.
But she says, “I do wonder if I had been diagnosed the first time would I be in rehab today, would I already be back at work?”
Her advice to people who are shooed away by doctors: “I would encourage anybody not to hesitate to get a second opinion. I knew myself that this was not stress. Don’t wait. Get it checked out. Especially with stroke. Remember ‘time is brain.’ The quicker you get diagnosed the better chance you’ll have of recovering. "