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Fort Worth mother of 3 survives massive stroke at 41-years-old: “I’m just happy to be alive”

By Caroline Vandergriff

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    FORT WORTH, Texas (KTVT) — Many people think strokes only happen to older people, but they can happen to anyone. That’s why a Fort Worth mom of three wants to raise awareness about the signs after surviving a massive stroke at 41 years old.

Looking at Tiffany Rubenkoenig, it’s hard to tell all she has overcome to be here, telling her story.

“I’m just happy to be alive,” Rubenkoenig said. “I had to learn to walk. I had to relearn to brush my teeth. I mean, everything.”

She took for granted those basic skills while raising three young boys and working full-time until her life changed forever in July 2022.

On her way to a Garth Brooks concert with her husband, Rubenkoenig’s words began to slur and her face started to droop.

“I love Garth Brooks, I love Texas country, so the fact that we were at the concert and wouldn’t go in, he knew something was up,” she said. “So he immediately called 911.”

Doctors at the emergency room confirmed Rubenkoenig was having a stroke. She was given life-saving medication to break up the clot in her brain and started to feel better.

Minutes later, she stopped breathing and went into cardiac arrest – twice.

Rubenkoenig was taken via helicopter to Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth, the only advanced comprehensive stroke center in Tarrant County certified by The Joint Commission.

She doesn’t remember any of this.

“It was really overwhelming because I thought I was going to a concert, and the next thing I know I wake up in a hospital bed,” Rubenkoenig said.

It was the beginning of a year-and-a-half-long journey to relearn everything.

“She’s young to have had the kind of stroke she had,” said Robin Milroy, a Texas Health occupation therapist who worked with Rubenkoenig for vision therapy. “It was pretty significant. So she started out a pretty low level, so the amazing dedication she’s had… she has just done an incredible job.”

Extensive physical, cognitive, speech and vision therapy has helped Rubenkoenig get back to enjoying some independence again, but she still doesn’t know what the future holds.

“I don’t know if I can return to work ever again,” she said. “My speech is much different. Everything just takes so much longer for me to do.”

As she takes things day by day, she’s focusing on paying it forward. Rubenkoenig created a nonprofit called Sprinkling Love to give treats and gifts of cheer to other stroke and brain injury patients.

Just getting that little bit of someone knows what you’re going through, knows how hard this is, and people are paying attention in some way,” Rubenkoenig said.

She says it’s a constant lesson in embracing what’s in front of you.

“It really emphasizes the importance of, you’re not guaranteed tomorrow,” she said.

So today, she hugs her boys a little tighter and focuses on what she can do – not what’s changed.

“This is who I am now,” said Rubenkoenig. “There’s pieces of me that are still the same, but there’s a lot of me that’s a lot different.”

Stroke treatments work best if the stroke is recognized and diagnosed quickly.

According to the CDC, these are the signs of stroke:

Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body. Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or difficulty understanding speech. Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes. Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination. Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

If you or anyone else has these symptoms, call 911 right away.

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