1. Health

For World Stroke Day, three stories of survival

Thirty-three-year-old Kristin Bedinghaus was having a routine day.

She and her children were getting ready to leave for the park when she began to have a tough time climbing the stairs at her St. Petersburg home.

The last thing the stay-at-home mother of two sets of twins remembers from that day in 2013 is getting downstairs.

"I was having a perfect day and felt completely fine the second before my left side went out," she said.

Bedinghaus is like many Americans who have suffered a stroke and didn't see it coming.

Wednesday is World Stroke Day, and the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association of Tampa Bay use the day as an opportunity to encourage everyone to learn the warning signs of a stroke by using the acronym FAST:

Face drooping; Arm weakness; Slurred speech; and Time to call 911.

At the hospital, Bedinghaus learned that she had survived a stroke. Doctors worried she would never walk again without a walker.

That was a future she simply wouldn't accept.

"I knew I would get up these stairs again and my stroke was not going to stop me," Bedinghaus said. "As much as it defines us, it motivates me to keep trying."

Working with physical therapists five days a week for 14 months — and with the support of her husband and four children — Bedinghaus worked on teaching her brain and body how to walk again. She also takes blood thinning medication.

"The biggest thing is if it can happen to me at the age of 31 with health and everything,'' Bedinghaus said, "it could happen to anyone."

• • •

John Dingman of Palm Harbor survived a stroke in 2004 and that left him with aphasia.

Aphasia has caused Dingman, 64, to lose most of his ability to speak, but it has had no effect on his intellect.

A speech therapist suggested he turn to art.

Besides being involved in a regular aphasia support group, Voices of Hope for Aphasia, and spending time with his family, Dingman now spends his days painting and sketching.

"I've got my artwork, and I'm in seventh heaven," Dingman said.

• • •

On Jan. 3, 2009, Jarrish Jones noticed he wasn't feeling like himself. As others symptoms appeared, he realized he was having a stroke.

His doctors have been amazed he was able to recover with minimal physical and physiological deficiencies. Jones, 41, was able to return to his job at the James B. Sanderlin Neighborhood Family Center in St. Petersburg after one month.

"I think one of the greater lessons I achieved as a result (of the stroke) was an even more heightened awareness of living a healthy lifestyle," Jones said.

Contact Eve Edelheit at Follow @Eve_Edelheit.