Today contributor Bobbie Thomas is opening up about her husband’s stroke at the age of 40 — and raising awareness about the prevalence of strokes in younger people.
In a column for Today written last week, Thomas, 44, revealed that her husband Michael suffered a stroke earlier this year, and spent more than six weeks at the hospital while in rehabilitation.
“Over the past six weeks, I’ve been shuffling between the hospital and home, and focusing on my family,” she wrote in the column. “But this week, I finally felt the courage to share what’s happening. For me, I’ve always believed that reaching out for resources and community, and sharing experiences, are the best ways to weather life’s biggest storms.”
Thomas said that she shared her family’s story in honor of National Stroke Awareness Month, which is celebrated in May each year.
“Today is the last day of National Stroke Awareness Month, a disease I was painfully unaware of until it happened to my husband, and something I had previously thought only occurred in older adults,” she said.
The couple have been married for six years and share son Miles.
“[Michael and I] have been fortunate to celebrate many happy times since we met, but I’ve never felt more in love or more connected to him than in the pain and dark,” Thomas wrote. “We make all these plans for the future, but life can change in an instant and it’s who you have next to you in these moments that makes all the difference.”
“Now, through all of the tears and heartbreak we’ve experienced together these past few weeks, what’s guided me has been gratitude,” she continued. “We’re grateful for the doctors, nurses, and patient care staffers who deserve so much more than a paycheck. Their kindness and dedication truly inspire us to keep moving forward.”
Thomas continued by sharing her gratitude for her husband’s improving health.
“Every morning that I get to wake up and live another day with Michael by my side is a good day,” she said. “Right now, the only hope I have for the future is to be on the other side of this with him.”
Though about two-thirds of all strokes occur in people over 65, according to the Centers for Disease Control, the median stroke age is trending downwards.
“Strokes are now the fifth leading cause of death in Americans,” Dr. Thomas Maldonado, vascular surgeon and professor of surgery at NYU Langone Health, previously told PEOPLE. “It tends to happen later in life as we age, because there’s more time for the plaque to build up, but it certainly can happen in young people.”
However, as Thomas mentioned in her column, according to the National Stroke Association, 73% of young people in America are “not familiar with stroke symptoms and the need for urgent medical attention.”
“These figures are a large part of why I want to help spread awareness that strokes don’t just happen to older adults,” she wrote.
Thomas said that Michael is currently in rehabilitation. “While he has lost a lot of his mobility, he’s improving little by little every day,” she wrote.
“To everyone out there who is walking uphill with their partner right now, keep going,” Thomas concluded her column. “I know how incredibly hard it is to watch someone you love suffer and to feel like there is nothing you can do to help. But I think just being there helps. Tell them you love them and be there, for better or worse.”
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