Postpartum Risk for Stroke: Brooke Bergfeld
A Stroke Survivor Shares Her Advice: “Timing Is Everything”
In April 2016, Brooke Bergfeld, of Bismarck, North Dakota, was celebrating being a new mom. The 29-year-old had given birth to her first child, a boy named Hudson, after a problem-free pregnancy. About a week after the birth, Brooke felt pain in her left arm, but she thought it was muscle soreness from carrying around a new baby. Similarly, she chalked up her sudden, terrible headache to migraines, like the ones she’d had before her pregnancy. Luckily, Brooke’s mom, who was visiting at the time, noticed Brooke’s slurred speech and drooping face—two classic signs of stroke—and immediately called 9-1-1.
At the hospital, doctors performed a procedure called a “thrombectomy” to remove a blood clot that was thought to have caused the stroke. Brooke’s doctor diagnosed her with fibromuscular dysplasia, a condition that can cause some blood vessels to narrow or be deformed. This condition led to problems in the arteries in Brooke’s neck, where her health care team thinks the clot formed.
“Timing is everything. Getting help as fast as possible was my saving grace…. If my mom hadn’t been there, I would likely either not be here or have disabilities now. But because she was so fast at calling 9-1-1 and getting me help, I have no disabilities, and I can function and live my everyday, normal life.”
—Brooke Bergfeld, 31, stroke survivor
After undergoing several medical procedures and spending a few days in the hospital, Brooke returned home with no serious disabilities or major limitations. She credits her mom’s quick thinking, combined with the medical care she received in the ambulance and at the hospital, for the fact that she is alive and healthy. Today, Brooke says she is “blessed to be alive and knows there is life after a stroke.” She continues to see her doctors on a regular basis and takes medicine to control her blood pressure as well as blood thinners to prevent clots. She also tries to eat healthfully and fit more physical activity into her day. Her son’s birthday has now become her celebration of life, too. “I can continue to live on and be happy and healthy,” she says.
Since her stroke, Brooke has become an advocate for stroke awareness. She has traveled to New York City to help teach others, especially women, that stroke can happen to anyone, even younger people like her. Brooke encourages people to learn the signs of stroke and to act F.A.S.T. when stroke happens. “Don’t downplay your symptoms,” she says. “It’s better to call 9-1-1 right away if you have any symptoms of stroke.”