ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — More than 800,000 people of all ages suffer a stroke each year in America. While medical advances are minimizing long-term disabilities, the age of stroke patients is getting younger.

As an active and successful 45-year-old, Todd Rosewell thought it would never happen to him.

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“Absolutely not,” Rosewell said. “I thought it happens to someone who is older. You look at me and Luke Perry for instance.”

But on the same weekend Rosewell was watching the Masters Tournament, he began having symptoms: sudden and intense headache, impaired vision and weakness on one side of his body.

“By Sunday night, I developed right side tremors and I felt like I was going to pass out. Basically, the whole right side of my body was shaking uncontrollably,” Rosewell said.

He was rushed to the comprehensive stroke center at United Hospital in St. Paul, where tests in the hospital’s interventional radiology suite confirmed that a blood clot had migrated up his vertebral artery, and settled in a basilar artery in the back portion of his brain.

“Time is absolutely of the essence, time is brain,” said Dr. Jeff Lassig, head of United Hospital’s neuro interventional radiology department.

(credit: CBS)

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Lassig demonstrated how a small cranial catheter that was navigated through Rosewell’s arteries could reach the clot and remove it safely. The procedure is known as thrombectomy.

“We use a little microwire that goes through this to navigate up to the artery that is blocked and up through to the blockage. Then it is connected to a suction device and essentially we suck the clot out,” Lassig said.

Strokes are the leading cause of disability, preventing speech and physical movement. Dr. Ganesh Asaithambi, a stroke neurologist, says quick recognition and medical intervention is key to minimize long term damage.

“Once we determine whether someone is experiencing an ischemic stroke, then we can determine what types of treatment we can offer within the emergency department to improve their chances of disability-free living,” Asaithambi said.

Three weeks after suffering his stroke, Rosewell is speaking clearly, and senses only minor vision impairment. He considers himself a very, very lucky man.

“If they had not brought me here, I would not be talking to you in the way I am talking to you today,” Rosewell said.

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Click here for more on the warning signs of stroke and risk factors.