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FORT COLLINS, Colo. – When one thinks about strokes, the typical patient that comes to mind is often someone older. However, anyone at any age can have a stroke.

“On Dec. 22 of 2013, I was watching the Broncos game and just out of the blue I had a stroke,” Amy Buford told FOX31.

Buford was just 26 years old at the time.

“There is one memory I have where the paramedics are telling me, ‘Well, you’re having a stroke.’ And I was like, ‘There’s no way I’m having a stroke. I’m 26,'” Buford said.

The cause of Buford’s stroke is rooted in her history of using oral contraceptives, which can lead to blood clots, as well as a birth defect called PFO. That means Buford was born with a hole in her heart which allowed the clot to easily pass through the chambers of her heart and travel up to the brain.

“There really isn’t a youngest age cutoff where you can’t have a stroke below that age because we can see strokes across the entire age spectrum,” UCHealth stroke neurologist Dr. Sharon Poisson told FOX31.

National statistics show an increase in the number of young adults under age 44 being admitted to the hospital for stroke. While doctors are still trying to figure out why younger people are having strokes, theories suggest it could have to do with an increase in obesity or that young people aren’t doing a good enough job preventing strokes.

Poisson treated Buford after she was airlifted to University of Colorado Hospital following her stroke. She says Amy had a “big” stroke, which affected two-thirds of the right side of her brain.

Buford suffered a severe complication of her stroke, called “neglect.”

“They might not be able to move their left side but they may have no idea that they can’t move the left side because they don’t recognize that they have a left side,” Poisson said.

Buford lost all of her mobility on the left side of her body.

“I was told I would never walk again and that wasn’t a good day,” she said.

That was tough news to swallow for the young woman. Buford is a special education teacher for preschoolers and has a fierce passion for volleyball, hiking and travel.

She was determined to walk out of her inpatient rehabilitation program. And she did.

After more than five years in physical therapy with the team at UCHealth, Buford can now walk on her own. She can also drive, swim, cycle and do yoga.

“Even the little steps are big steps,” she said.

Buford still has mobility issues that she is working through and doesn’t have much function of her left arm or hand.

“I think she’s really defied what were the odds set out to her,” Poisson said.

Buford continues to defy the odds. This week, she is fulfilling her lifelong dream to move to Hawaii to teach.

“If I don’t do it now, I don’t know when I’m going to do it. So, Maui on Thursday!” she said. “Just keep living your life because tomorrow, it’s not promised.”