Mepham High School librarian Shari Stack said she could not have predicted three events in the past three years of her life: that she would suffer a stroke at age 29, that she would have a second one 16 months later, and that she would tell a national television audience about the attacks on “The Dr. Oz Show” a year and a half after that.
“If we can save someone’s life, it is worth sharing the story,” she said of her TV appearance. “This helps me make sense of what happened to me.”
Stack, who’s now 32, appeared on an episode of Dr. Mehmet Oz’s talk show that aired on Jan. 15, alongside a fellow stroke survivor and Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon and the chief medical correspondent for CNN. The program examined how and why strokes are on the rise among young women and the risk factors associated with them.
One topic of discussion was the warning signs of a stroke, which Stack said she didn’t know when she had her first attack six weeks after giving birth to her son, Liam. A north Merrick native and a Mepham graduate, she was at home in Massapequa Park with her infant and her husband, Christopher, on Jan. 30, 2010, when her vision in her right eye began to blur and she lost the ability to speak and move her right leg. She would not have known she was having a stroke, however, if her husband, a New York City firefighter trained to spot the condition, had not been with her, she explained.
“I don’t know what would have happened to me that day if it weren’t for him,” Shari said. “I wasn’t panicked. I didn’t think anything was wrong.”
She noted on the program that although she knows the stroke was caused by a blood clot on the left side of her brain, doctors are unsure why she had one in the first place –– and a second one the following May.
Stack has no family history of strokes and is otherwise in good physical health. Since the strokes, she explained, the right side of her body is slightly weaker, and her time management and cognitive functions were affected for a time.
But she said she feels fortunate to be able to speak and work –– and to be alive. “When I compare myself to others, I know how lucky I am,” she said. “I’m so lucky that I’m alive and that my deficits are minimal. It could have been so much worse.”