Meredith Land, NBC 5 News
A 22-year-old former ballerina who is recovering from a stroke walked down the aisle at her wedding and now aims to someday dance again.
A 22-year-old former ballerina who is battling back from a stroke says she would love to be able to dance again.
A stroke left Katrina Evans' left arm paralyzed and her left leg weak.
Someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the patients are getting younger.
Evans struggles with small lifting exercises during her physical therapy sessions.
"It's amazing how you think you can do anything and then, all of a sudden, your brain is not communicating with your hand, at all," she said. "You can tell it a million times, but it's not happening."
Her strength in rehab comes from memories of her mother and grandmother, she said. Her mother, also a dancer, died of stroke when Katrina was just 7 years old. Her grandmother's life was also cut short because of stroke.
"When I am in a 'why me' moment, I feel them saying, 'No. You don't do this. You got the chance, so you get better. You live your life because we didn't get the chance,' so I have to for them,'" Evans said.
Stroke symptoms, such as numbness in the side of her face and tongue, started showing up in junior high.
Evans was diagnosed with moyamoya syndrome, a rare condition in which arteries narrow as they get close to the brain, reducing blood flow.
She had her first surgery at age 15. When symptoms arose again in her early 20s, doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas thought surgery was a must again.
"It was high-risk. I think it was inevitable -- that if we didn't do the surgery, she was going to have a stroke and, again, not if but when," said Dr. Jessica Lee, a UT Southwestern neurologist.
But she had a stroke just before surgery, and doctors had to operate immediately.
"Honestly, I was thinking, 'This is just horrible. What the heck am I going to do now?'" Evans said.
But she battled back. Her goal was to walk down the aisle with fiance, Kyle, and she did on Nov. 26.
"Walking down the aisle was great," Evans said. "It was an accomplishment, but it was also the beginning of my new life. We danced. We did everything that a normal wedding would do. I danced."
Walking gets better every day. She said her new goal is one her mother would have loved to see.
"I want to dance again," Evans said. "I want to dance again, bad."