Young stroke survivor speaks at Go Red for Women luncheon

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Imagine having a stroke at the age of 17. It happened to a young Chicago woman. Now she is determined to raise awareness about what happened to her and to help save the lives of others.

On Friday, Rachel Castro shared her story in front of nearly 800 people at the Go Red for Women luncheon at the Palmer House Hilton. The event was the culmination of a month-long campaign by the American Heart Association to raise awareness for not only cardiovascular disease, but also for stroke.

It was two-and-a-half years ago, during the last week of Rachel's junior year of high school when her life forever changed.

"It started with a headache at 5:00, and then my hearing started to go different - because it's my temporal lobe - and then my speech started to slur. I was in a daze and then I was paralyzed on the left side," said stroke survivor Rachel Castro.

Rachel said she was actually on the phone with her mom and didn't know what was happening.

"All I hear is commotion Rachel crying, so all I'm saying, 'Rachel is that you? Is that you?' Then all of a sudden I heard, 'Call 911,'" said Maria Castro, Rachel's mother, as she recalled the incident.

Turns out at age 17, Rachel had a massive stroke.

"I suffered from an arteriovenous malformation. It ruptured and it caused a hemorrhagic stroke," said Rachel.

She underwent brain surgery and physical therapy.

Today, her story is part of the Go Red movement which began in 2004. It's mission is to raise awareness that heart disease remains the number one killer of women, taking the life of one woman every 80 seconds. A serious message with tremendous support.

"I want people to know the signs of a stroke and to not be afraid to call 911 like how I was," said Rachel.

Rachel has since recovered but it wasn't easy. She said took months of physical and speech therapy. Now she is studying neuroscience in college.

February is Heart Health Month and all month long the American Heart Association has been encouraging folks to "Go Red."

The luncheon and silent auction was hosted by ABC 7's Rob Elgas and Judy Hsu. null
Copyright © 2019 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.