NORFOLK, Va. — Shannon Hunnicutt is used to life on the go.
"I have a problem with overworking, so I worked too many hours," Hunnicutt said. "I was part of a kickball league and a dodge ball league... even bowling sometimes."
So she didn't slow down on October 5, 2013, when she felt a pop in her neck and an instantaneous headache.
"I stood up and actually asked myself out loud, 'Am I having a stroke?' I didn't hear any slurred speech. There was no facial drooping. So, I went on about my day, thinking I should be treating a migraine."
Hunnicutt had migraines a number of times before this incident. However, she soon realized this time was different.
"I had lost use of my arm," Hunnicutt said.
"So people here that I work with were having to help me get dressed."
Hunnicutt sought help, but she was misdiagnosed. "[I] went to an Urgent Care. They too thought I had a migraine, treated me for that. Did not help... I went to the ER, they thought I had a pulled muscle, treated me for that. Did not help the headache."
It would be 22 days without proper treatment before she finally learned the truth.
"That pop that I felt in my neck was me tearing a hole in my carotid artery," Hunnicutt said. "It shot clots up, and I actually tore my carotid again and from there it burst and I had strokes in three of the four lobes of my brain."
Following the shocking diagnosis, Hunnicutt took charge of her life. After three months of rehabilitation, she adopted a healthier lifestyle and lost more than 100 pounds.
"That was something that I could take on myself," Hunnicutt said. "I don't need [medicine] to do that. I didn't need a doctor to tell me to do it. Staying active it's the only way that I could help prolong whatever time I have left here."
Hunnicutt said not knowing her condition could have cost her her life. "Younger people are being misdiagnosed and they're bypassing the signs," she said. "Who would expect someone at 32 to be having a stoke, especially when they've had migraines?"
She also volunteers with the American Heart Association every chance she gets. "I just like to talk to people and hear their story or why they think that they may not be impacted, and inform them that they will, no matter what we do," Hunnicutt said.
She still lives with her condition and has some limitations on what she can do. However, she's determined to live her best life and encourage everyone she can to do the same.
"I took life for granted beforehand, and I did not do all the things that I do now. I don't feel like I was living," Hunnicutt said. "So, the post-stroke me, I feel, is a lot cooler. And I'm not gonna let anything hold me back."
According to the American Heart Association, someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds. It accounts for one of every 20 deaths. If you'd like to help spread awareness of heart disease and stroke or become a volunteer, visit www.heart.org/hamptonroads.