A 23-year-old paramedic is speaking out after a neck crack caused a major artery in her spine to rupture, resulting in a stroke.
Natalie Kunicki, who works for the London Ambulance Service, was watching movies in bed with a friend after a night out on March 4 when she stretched her neck and heard a loud crack, the Daily Mail reports.
When she got up to use the bathroom 15 minutes later, Kunicki says she collapsed and couldn't move her left leg.
The embarrassed paramedic at first refused to call emergency services, as she originally mistook her own symptoms for inebriation and did not want her colleagues to see her "tipsy."
However, Kunicki eventually realized something was seriously wrong with her and phoned for help.
"I'm a paramedic and I didn't ring 999 for 10 minutes because I thought it was too unlikely it would be a stroke when I should have known much better," she said.
An ambulance rushed Kunicki to the University College London Hospital where physicians confirmed she suffered a stroke and would need emergency surgery, according to the Daily Mail.
The patient was transferred to the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, where, during a three-hour surgery, doctors discovered and fixed her burst artery.
"When the consultant told me I'd had a stroke, I was in shock," Kunicki said. "The doctors told me later that just that stretching of my neck had caused my vertebral artery to rupture. It was just spontaneous and there's a one in a million chance of it happening."
Kunicki's left side was initially rendered completely paralyzed by the stroke. Through physical therapy, she says she has been able to regain some use of her leg, arm and hand, although she describes her movements as "clumsy."
She hopes that by speaking out about her condition, her story will spread awareness that young people can also suffer strokes and that symptoms should never be ignored.
"I have been called out to so many people having strokes and they're always in their 70s or 80s," Kunicki said. "I have never been to a young person having a stroke."
"People need to know that even if you're young something this simple can cause a stroke," she added.