Kim Zolciak-Biermann thought she was invincible. But when the otherwise healthy former "Real Housewives of Atlanta" star suffered a stroke in September at the age of 37, that worldview shattered.
Kim was a contestant on "Dancing With the Stars" at the time and, despite generally feeling like nothing could take her down, she tells "Oprah: Where Are They Now -- Extra" that she sensed something ominous was about to take place.
"I knew something was going to happen on 'Dancing With the Stars,' and I knew I wasn't going to break a bone," Kim says. "I definitely didn't think a stroke, but I definitely had some kind of feeling. I kept saying, 'This is really odd.'"
Yet Kim was so focused on her work responsibilities and her family that she pushed the uneasiness aside.
"I was still filming 'Don't Be Tardy' and kind of wrapping up that at the same time [as 'Dancing With the Stars'], and taking care of the kids and trying to help my husband manage his career," she explains. "So, it is no doubt, 100 percent, 'Kim, slow down.'"
Kim's stroke -- "I did have a full stoke; I did not have a mini-stroke, as I was told by so many people," she says -- occurred on September 23. Even in the midst of it, Kim wasn't sure what was happening to her. But something was clearly wrong.
Kim's eldest daughter, Brielle, quickly called Kim's NFL player husband, Kroy, at the Atlanta Falcons facility. Upon hearing Kim's symptoms, Kroy seemed to recognize what was going on.
"He said, 'Your mom's having a stroke. Put her in the car right now and get her [to the hospital]," Kim says. "I didn't want to call 911 because we all know TMZ and everybody else puts this stuff out there."
While Kim was hospitalized, doctors discovered she had a heart condition that required surgery. She withdrew from "Dancing With the Stars" and underwent heart surgery about a month later. Today, Kim says her heart is healed and the residual effects of the stroke are minimal.
"Sometimes, my speech... my tongue will give out, similar to what it did during the actual stroke. It'll happen at random times," Kim says. "But other than that, I'm 100 percent recovered."
Emotionally, though, the busy mom had difficulty reconciling the timing of the whole experience. "I was really sad after it happened and, as spiritual as I am, was like, 'Why during a time that I did something for me -- which was 'Dancing With the Stars' -- would I go through something like this?" Kim says.
Even now, Kim can't shake some of her lingering fears from her health scare.
"I don't want it to take over my life, but I definitely have the fear of, 'Holy sh*t.' In one minute, my life changed," Kim says.
But some things will never change. Kim is still fiercely focused on her family (she says she took her four youngest children Trick-or-Treating by herself a week after her heart surgery), her TV career and exploring new business ventures, like her skincare line. It may seem like a lot to manage, but Kim embraces the busy pace with her kids and husband by her side.
"I can't imagine life any other way, honestly," she says. "I mean, I live a dream."
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