The situation Kim Zolciak-Biermann found herself in during late September was no laughing matter.
“I bent down to hug my son KJ and all of a sudden my left hand went numb,” Zolciak-Biermann, 37, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. And the sensation got worse.
“It was like a million ants were crawling over my body,” she says.
Soon she was unable to feel her face or tongue.
“I’m always joking around with my kids,” says the Don’t Be Tardy star. “I do these Jim Carrey impersonations with my face and my daughter Brielle thought I was doing that! She said, ‘Mom, cut it out, you’re not funny.’ ”
Using all her strength to grab her daughters arm, the reality star made it clear she wasn’t kidding this time. Zolciak-Biermann didn’t know it at the time, but she was having a stroke.
“I kept telling myself, ‘You’re fine, you’re fine. It’s going to be over in a minute, just hold on,’ ” she recalls.
Now, a week after undergoing surgery to close a hole doctor’s found in her heart, Zolciak-Biermann is thankful for when and where her crisis took place.
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“I had just been driving home from the airport. I could have had the stroke on the highway,” she says. “I’m a very spiritual person. God put me in the most perfect position I could have been in to go through this.”
The season finale of Don’t Be Tardy airs Thursday at 10 p.m. ET on Bravo.
For more on Kim Zolciak-Biermann’s health scare and recovery, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday