December 11, 2019 by John Fernandez
She had a Stroke at 23: ‘This Can Happen to Anyone’
Kimberly San Martin was in an exercise class when she started to get dizzy and experienced weakness on her left side. It may be hard to believe that such a young and overall healthy person who exercised regularly was demonstrating symptoms of a stroke. But that’s exactly what was happening.
“I got dizzy,” recalls Ms. San Martin (pictured above). “I raised my arms, except this one went up and this one (her left arm) didn’t. Within 30 minutes, I was at the hospital.”
(Watch Video now. The Baptist Health News Team hears from Kimberly San Martin and Guilherme Dabus, M.D., interventional neuroradiologist at Baptist Health Neuroscience Center and Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute, about her stroke and treatment. Video by Dylan Kyle.)
Doctors would diagnose an ischemic stroke in Ms. San Martin, whose personal or family history did not show an elevated risk for stroke. An ischemic stroke, the most common type, occurs as a result of an obstruction within a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain. It accounts for nearly 90 percent of all stroke cases and can potentially be treated with tPA, the clot-busting drug, if treated promptly.
“It’s very scary waking up and not fully feeling the left side of my body, feeling numbness and feeling tingliness,” Ms. San Martin remembers. She was treated with the tPA, but there was another hurdle to overcome.
“We were able to diagnose her as having a dissection … which is a little tear in the inner layer of the blood vessel and that caused it to be blocked,” says Guilherme Dabus, M.D., director of the Interventional Neuroradiology Fellowship Program at Baptist Health Neuroscience Center and Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute.
Ms. San Martin underwent a CTA (computed tomography angiography), which is a scan that looks at the blood vessels to identify exactly where a blockage exists “to determine if the patient is a good candidate for interventional therapies,” Dr. Dabus said. One interventional option is a “mechanical thrombectomy,” in which doctors remove blood clots using a device threaded through a blood vessel. She underwent the procedure to restore blood flow.
Three years ago, Baptist Hospital was designated by the Joint Commission, which accredits U.S. healthcare organizations, as a Comprehensive Stroke Center, which means that a facility is fully staffed and equipped to handle the most complex stroke cases.
While the stroke rate continues to slide in people 55 and older, it is increasing in younger adults starting in their mid-to-late 30s, according to recent research studies. Although Ms. San Martin had no serious health issues and was healthy overall, a growing number of Americans under the age of 50 are at higher risk of stroke because of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and other preventable health issues — most of which can be controlled with lifestyle modifications and medication.
Ms. San Martin says she is recovering well and has slowly started to regain enough strength and mobility to start exercising again.
“This can happen to anyone at any age, no matter what condition you live your life, no matter how healthy or unhealthy you are,” Ms. San Martin emphasizes as part of her mission to alert other young people. “I’m only 23.”
Baptist Health Neuroscience Center was recently recognized as #1 in the South Florida region, and one of America’s top 10 percent best hospitals for neurology & neurosurgery by U.S. News & World Report.