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May is National Stroke Awareness Month -- Know the signs

It started out like any other busy Saturday in the life of a sports editor.

I slept a little later than normal. After all, I had worked until 2 a.m. covering high school football the night before and needed to get some rest.

After grabbing a bite to eat, I headed to Columbus to cover the Eagle's Landing Christian softball team in the Class A Elite 8. It was the first year of the Lady Chargers' amazing run as they went on to win four straight state titles over the next few years.

A few hours after arriving in Columbus, my life dramatically changed.

As I was getting out of my car to head back the stadium after taking a short break, the whole world literally started spinning, my knees buckled and I broke out into a cold sweat even though it was a pleasant, cool day fall day in Middle Georgia.

Then things eventually came back into focus. I thought maybe I just had the flu or some sort of 24-hour bug.

After starting to feel a little better, I made the decision to drive home.

Fortunately, I made it back to Stockbridge without another incident, but by Sunday morning, I could no longer stand. So after crawling to the phone, I dialed 911, and was transported to Henry Medical Center where I underwent a series of tests.

Two days later, doctors had their diagnosis--I had suffered a stroke.

I didn't want to believe it. I always thought strokes were for people in their 70s or 80s, not 42-year-old men.

Granted I wasn't the picture of health. I was 50 pounds over weight, and I ate too much junk food, but I could still talk, and I had numbness, not paralysis.

In my own mind there was no way it was a stroke.

My doctors made it very clear all strokes were different. They also made it very clear that this should be a wake up call for me and I had better change my lifestyle

They were also honest when they told me, I was also a candidate for a full-blown stroke, and they would watch me close for a few days in ICU.

I got lucky, and was able to go home and even back to work with in a few weeks. I am still on a wide variety of medication, and will be for life.

Weight issues had been problem for me for the last 15 years. It's a battle I still face, but since that fateful day, I have dropped nearly 50 pounds (still not where I want to be), and have been a regular visitor to the gym.

It's all apart of trying to get healthy again.

As I left the hosptial I promised I would change my eating habits, not easy for a sports writer who is used to living off of hot dogs from the concession stand at whatever locale I happen to be working.

I'm not perfect, but I am also getting better in that regard.

I learned strokes don't have to be a death sentence, and self-education helps.

A couple of years after suffering through my own stroke issues, New England Patriot Tedy Bruschi joined a club nobody should ever want membership in when he also had a stroke.

Bruschi had just played in the Super Bowl and was an All-Pro linebacker and one of the game's best defensive players when he was hit with his stroke.

When he returned to the game just a few months after getting sick, he inspired me. Although I was older than Bruschi and had come along way since my own stroke, I was struggling to try to get better. I had not always followed doctors' orders.

When he returned to the game, I sat up and took notice. I told myself, if he could do it, so could I.

May is National Stroke Awaerness month and it is important to know the signs:

They are -- numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg - especially on one side of the body, confusion, trouble speaking or understanding, trouble seeing in one or both eyes, trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, and severe headache with no known cause.

More than anything else, don't hesitate to call 911. It saved my life.

Nearly five years later, God has blessed me with a second chance at life.

I look forward to seeing more local teams and athletes win state titles. l actually like going to the gym now, and I like the fact that I am trying to get healthy.

I certainly am grateful for every moment with family and friends.

Strokes are no fun, but they don't have to be a death sentence if you know the signs.

(Doug Gorman is sports editor of the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached at dgorman@news-daily.com)