May is National Stroke Month. Every 40 seconds, someone has a stroke and warning signs can often be overlooked as just a strong headache.

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Tampa, Florida -- For Rose Mary Grasso, being a nurse at Bayfront Hospital runs in her blood. But to see her in action at Bayfront today, you'd never know that just 10 years ago, her career -- and her life -- seemed so bleak.

"I was diagnosed with a brain hemorrhage on the side of my brain," she says.

Rose Mary had a stroke, with two brain bleeds. "It's like the foundation of your life is completely knocked out from under you."

She was blinded by the stroke and barely able to move. Instead of accepting her disabilities, her husband Joe, became her saving grace.

"He was selfless," she says. "Most people sell their home, or get rid of the car because their vision is bad... but he kept everything. He said, 'Don't take my hope.'"

So through sheer determination, toughness, and with Joe acting as her eyes...

"It took four months to go back to work a four-hour shift. I was completely exhausted."

Little by little, thanks to the care she received at Bayfront, within eight months, Rose Mary was back, working 32 hours a week. And today, while still blind, she's taken on a new role in her 24-year long nursing career at Bayfront: reviewing other stroke patient's conditions.

"I'm proud of be part of it, because I've been on the patient's side of it," she says.

Rose Mary is helping them not just survive, but become stroke winners. "I don't like being called a survivor," she explains. "If we can get stroke victims going one step at a time, then they're stroke winners. I am a stroke winner."

When a stroke happens, every second counts. Here is a list of what to do if you or someone you know is showing symptoms of having a stroke:

Learn Your Risk:

The No. 1 stroke risk factor is high blood pressure. About 77 percent of people who suffer a first stroke have blood pressure higher than 140/90 mm Hg. Lowering your top number by 10 or bottom number by 5 may cut your risk of stroke in half.

Learn the Stroke Warning Signs and What to Do in a Stroke Emergency:

  • Every minute counts during a stroke emergency.
  • When you recognize a stroke and immediately call 9-1-1, the person has a greater chance of getting to an appropriate hospital quickly and being assessed for treatment options like a clot-busting drug and other medical devices.
  • The American Stroke Association's Together to End Stroke initiative teaches the acronym F.A.S.T. to help people recognize common warning signs of stroke. F.A.S.T. stands for:
    F - Face Drooping: Does one side of the face droop or is it numb?
    A - Arm Weakness: Is one arm weak or numb?
    S - Speech Difficulty: Is speech slurred, are they unable to speak, or are they hard to understand?
    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.

Additional Messages and Facts

  • Every 40 seconds, someone in America has a stroke. On average, every four minutes, someone dies from stroke.
  • Stroke is the No. 1 cause of preventable disability.
  • Eighty percent of strokes can be prevented.
  • Stroke is the No. 4 cause of death among U.S. adults. It kills 129,000 people a year – that's about one in every 19 deaths.
  • Stroke is the No. 3 cause of death among women and No. 5 cause of death among men.
  • Risk factors such as high blood pressure, migraine with aura, atrial fibrillation, diabetes, depression and emotional stress are stroke risk factors that tend to be stronger or more common in women than in men.
  • African-Americans have nearly twice the risk for a first-ever stroke than White Americans, largely due to the high rates of high blood pressure.
  • Stroke prevalence is projected to increase the most among Hispanic men between now and 2030, and the cost of treating stroke in Hispanic women is expected to triple.
  • Approximately 15 percent of all strokes are preceded by a transient ischemic attack (TIA), often called a "mini stroke" or a "warning stroke".

Information courtesy the American Stroke Association

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