COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - May is National Stroke Awareness Month and Piedmont Columbus Regional is giving the community a look into the brain to bring awareness and education to the prevalence of strokes.
"We are in the heart of highest incident of stroke rates in the country," says Kelli Brennan, Director of Neuroscience Services for Piedmont Columbus Regional.
Health officials call the stretch from Georgia to the Carolinas the 'stroke belt.' This is where people are at a higher risk of strokes and where strokes are the fifth leading cause of deaths.
Piedmont Columbus Regional's look into the brain showed community members where and how strokes can happen.
"We are really trying to bring awareness to what a stroke is," says Brennan. "Making sure people know the signs and symptoms, making sure people know to call 9-11 because the treatments that we have for strokes are defiantly time dependent. So, the sooner a patient is brought to the hospital or their family or loved ones can recognize it's a stroke, the better their chance of recovery."
"A stroke can happen all of a sudden and within seconds and once the blood flow is blocked, parts of the brain begin to die," Brennan explains.
Strokes only happen in the brain, despite the misconception that they start from the heart.
The average age for strokes is in the region is 64-years-old, which is younger than the national average. Health officials say it can happen even younger.
Elizabeth Collier is a 9-year-old superhero, she was diagnosed with a Moyamoya disease, where the blood flow in the arteries of the brain become constricted.
"For as long as we could remember she's had headaches and we weren't able to find out why. We took her to several specialists, the pediatrician. We tried everything we could try to get rid of them and they couldn't figure out what was going on," said Kate Collier, Elizabeth's mother.
They found out the headaches were indeed caused by strokes and after over 40 doctors' visits and 2 brain surgeries, Elizabeth was okay and today they could not be more thankful.
"It's awesome to be able to see exactly where everything Is and we were able to walk through and see where everything happen when they did her surgeries. You're able to see it on a small scale but to be able to see it on a big scale is really cool," says Kate, who attended the event alongside her family, including Elizabeth.
Health officials say if you think someone is having a stroke, remember the acronym FAST, face drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulty, and time to call.
For more information on Piedmont Columbus Regional and their stroke services, click here.