Marissa Fattore’s graduation was probably one of the most memorable days in her life. However, not for the right reasons. The 21-year-old at the time suffered a stroke when receiving her diploma. It all started with a “fuzzy brain” that she put down to nerves. An expert shared how to spot this “common” warning sign.

A stroke is considered a “serious life-threatening” emergency triggered by a cut-off blood supply to part of your brain, according to the NHS.

Sadly, this emergency struck down on Marissa’s graduation ceremony from Kutztown University of Pennsylvania in the US.

The graduate had her nails done, bought a new dress and a pair of high heels. Despite her excitement, she felt “crummy”, according to the American Heart Association.

She started the day with a headache and a “fuzzy brain”, which she blamed on her nerves. However, these signs turned out to be the red flags signalling that she was about to have a stroke.

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With more than 500 people seated at the ceremony, including Marissa’s parents, the graduate took her place with other students.

When she walked to the stage and accepted her bachelor’s degree in Psychology, the ceremony had to be suddenly brought to a halt as Marissa had fallen to the ground.

Later, diagnostic tests revealed the stroke was triggered by cerebral venous sinus thrombosis. This occurs when a blood clot forms in the brain’s venous sinuses.

As fuzzy brain was one of Marissa’s only symptoms, neurologist Carolyn Brockington explained how to identify this sign.


Speaking to The Healthy, the doctor said that when people struggle with thinking of the right words or lose their train of thought, they pin it down to tiredness or their brain feeling “foggy”.

However, sudden cognitive deficits like this are actually “common” signs of a stroke.

The doctor added: “You might struggle to think of a word every once in a while, but there shouldn’t be a long period of time where you can’t think of anything to say or be unable to speak.”

Sudden confusion or difficulty understanding others is also considered one of the key stroke symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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“If you suspect that you or someone else is having a stroke, phone 999 immediately and ask for an ambulance,” it adds.

At first, Marissa couldn’t walk properly, and her speech and comprehension were also slow, following the event.

Fortunately, she improved quickly, which doctors credited to her overall health and fitness.

Nine years later, Marissa now lives with her boyfriend and she is spreading awareness of stroke, fitness and heart health.

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