WALLINGFORD - Sharon Moye-Johnson thought she was too young and healthy to have a stroke, so she ignored a headache of four days and learned the hard way that she was wrong. Moye-Johnson, now 53, is lucky to be here to share her story - and is doing so in the hope she can help others know the signs of stroke and to get to the hospital as soon as possible. "I believe in miracles because I am one. It's a miracle I survived," said Moye-Johnson. Moye-Johnson is the first woman and first African American appointed to the position of regional manager of Judicial Court Support Services Division Bail Service. Fifty-two at the time of her stroke Oct. 12, Moye-Johnson didn't have high blood pressure or any other underlying medical conditions, but doctors believe a case of COVID-19 in April 2020 contributed to the stroke, in her case, a blood clot that caused a dissection of an artery leading to the brain. With COVID-19, Moye-Johnson had a 104-degree fever for 10 days. She wasn't hospitalized and returned to work full time a month later. After a week at Yale New Haven Hospital, where she underwent emergency surgery for the Oct. 12 stroke, Moye-Johnson was sent for rehabilitation to Gaylord Specialty Healthcare in Wallingford until Christmas Eve. She continues to undergo outpatient therapy. With the help of Gaylord, a devoted family and a strong faith in God, Moye-Johnson has made huge progress, but is still working on regaining motion in her left arm and hand. She manages more than 50 employees throughout the state and has to drive in the job, so recovering that left arm\/hand motion is key. Raising awareness In this National Stroke Awareness month, Moye-Johnson wants to remind the public of the acronym FAST in recognizing stroke. F is for facial drooping; A is for arm weakness; S is for speech difficulties; and T is for time, meaning if any of the previous symptoms are presenting, call an ambulance, because time is of the essence in treating a stroke. Moye-Johnson said paramedics are trained to treat stroke and that buys more time before getting to the hospital. Moye-Johnson, however, didn't have a lot of the typical symptoms - for her, the warning sign was a severe headache for the previous four days that didn't go away with over-the-counter pain medication. Despite the headache, she soldiered on, even cleaning up after Sunday dinner at her parents' house, a day before she would wake up unable to walk. When they returned home from her parents' house that Sunday, her husband of 25 years, Johnny Johnson, said maybe she was having a stroke and should go to the hospital. She said, "I'm only 52, I can't be having a stroke." Moye-Johnson went to bed, woke up the next morning and couldn't walk. "My legs were like rubber, I couldn't stand," she said. Her son, 21, drove her to the hospital. When they got to the ER, the person registering her told Moye-Johnson to put her thumb to her finger. "I couldn't do it," she said. The hospital called a "stroke alert," she said, and before she knew it they were asking basic questions such as her name, address, name of the president. She answered all the questions correctly. "They said, 'We think you're having a stroke,'" she said. She needed a procedure to fix the artery. Doctors told her husband she had a 50 percent chance of survival after surgery. "Thankfully, I survived," Moye-Johnson said. Time Franklin Wendt, an APRN who assisted in Moye-Johnson's treatment, said there are two types of stroke: a dissection, or weakening of one of the blood vessels that provides blood to the brain and a bleeding stroke in which a blockage blocks blood supply to the brain. "Time is extremely important," he said of those having a stroke. Wendt said people should watch out for a headache that's new or different and doesn't go away with the typical over-the-counter meds. Other symptoms to watch out for are limb weakness, difficulty speaking, or changes in sensation on one side of the body. "She made great progress while she was inpatient," he said of Moye-Johnson. Part of her time at Gaylord was spent at their Taurig House, a transitional living program for patients making good progress, but who aren't ready to go home yet. "It gives them the opportunity to ease back into community living," Wendt said. Generally, the recovery from stroke happens the first several months, but up to a year before there is permanent disability, so Moye-Johnson has time to recover the motion in her left arm and hand. After months of hospitalization, as well as physical, occupational and speech therapy, Moye-Johnson is coming along and walking "fine," she said, her speech clear. Originally after the stroke she used a cane and a brace to get around, but no longer. She tells therapists that her goal is to get back to wearing four-inch heels every day. "I've come a long way, longer than people expected," she said. "Your condition may seem impossible, but with God anything is possible." The care at Gaylord was "excellent," she said, and "the nurses were phenomenal." Healing Moye-Johnson also credits her recovery to a close, helping family, and God, in whom she has much faith. Her husband has been there every step of the way, she said, as have her siblings and parents, Willie Moye, pastor of Holy Tabernacle Church of God and Christ in Bridgeport, and Lillian Moye. Her parents are still making Sunday dinner at their house, but now always deliver to Moye-Johnson's family in Wallingford, as well. Her four sisters and two brothers have helped keep her home going by cleaning, cooking, staying with her for weeks when she wasn't supposed to be alone. Her youngest sister started a prayer line for Moye-Johnson and other ill family members on Thursdays at 6 p.m. that brings family members onto a conference call from throughout Connecticut, California, Alabama and North Carolina. "It makes you appreciate each other more," she said. "A lot of people take life for granted so it doesn't pay to hold grudges because you don't know if anyone is going to be here in the morning." The family is so close that her niece who was supposed to be married in North Carolina changed it to Connecticut so Moye-Johnson could attend. "At my niece's wedding we lit seven candles in memory of loved ones and an eighth one for me because she said I could have easily been the eighth," Moye-Johnson said. As in all situations that go bad, it's all about "attitude," she said. "When adversity comes upon you, it's good to have a good attitude," she said. "Your attitude determines your altitude. A bad attitude is like a flat tire. You don't get far with it."