SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — May is National Stroke Awareness Month. One recent survivor in Central New York is sharing her experience, hoping it will help others be more aware of the signs and keep their health a top priority.

“Fear. That was the first thing and then after fear, I started to panic.”

Tiffany Henderson

In February, at only 35 years old, Tiffany Henderson knew something was wrong when she reached for a door and missed.

“It started with my arm. My arm just drifted away,” she said.

Henderson was having a stroke. It didn’t come with all the typical signs that go along with the acronym FAST — Face, Arm, Speech, Time.

Her speech was fine and her face didn’t droop, but it was a matter of life or death.

“It was around 9:30 in the morning. I didn’t wake up until 7 o’clock that night,” recalls Henderson.

She’s lucky. She works at St. Joseph’s Health and her colleagues jumped into action. They transferred her to the Upstate Stroke Center because of the severity and speed of her stroke. That quick care might have saved her life.

“It was a pretty ugly looking injury to the artery in her neck,” said Dr. Hesham Masoud.

Dr. Masoud is a Vascular and Interventional Neurologist at Upstate and he was one of the doctors who treated Henderson.

He says the majority of strokes are not painful. Similar to Tiffany, they can happen when you’re young.

So, Masoud says age shouldn’t be the main marker associated with stroke, the loss of function should be.

I think it’s exceedingly important that we sort of focus on the symptoms and not the perception of time. If suddenly something is taken away from you, then you need to come to the hospital.

Dr. Hesham Masoud

Henderson is grateful for her doctors and her treatment, but it hasn’t been an easy recovery.

I think it took maybe about a month and a half before I could actually open my hand. It was hard to accept what happened.

Tiffany Henderson

She has spent countless hours in therapy, fighting through acceptance and depression to get her mobility back.

It’s something a lot of stroke survivors struggle with. Henderson’s message to other survivors: be patient and don’t lose hope.

“Keep pushing yourself. Whatever you do don’t give up, cause you’re worth it.”

tiffany henderson

To learn more about the signs of stroke and stroke care, visit the Upstate Stroke Center website.