American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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On October 29, You're the Cure volunteer and acute neurovascular clinical nurse specialist Michelle Whaley, spoke to a group of volunteers and Colorado legislators to raise awareness of World Stroke Day. As a person on the front line practicing at Swedish Medical Center in Englewood, Michelle has firsthand experience in working with patients when they get to the hospital after suffering a stroke. Michelle shared her experience as she eloquently spoke to the group, ensuring that they knew the signs and symptoms of stroke. She also described the variety of patients she sees, from infants and children, to working parents and the elderly. The case studies she provided were a powerful example of how stroke can impact any one at any time.

Please click here to learn more about stroke. 

Tracy Green Springfield, IL

My name is Tracy Green and I am a stroke survivor. On November 10, 2007 I was buying a new car but was not feeling well. I waited to fill out the paperwork but continued feeling worse. As the dealership closed, they drove me home knowing I could not drive. I was in my apartment for almost 2 days before people found me as my speech was gone. At the hospital, they diagnosed stroke. The next day my employer fired me. The day after that he took my health insurance away. Was I depressed and frustrated? Yes. Seven months of out-patient speech therapy allowed me to get about 85% of my speech back but I notice my speech going haywire when I get tired.

Currently I am President of Lincolnland Stroke Support Network (LSSN) in Springfield, IL. We are over 100 members in our directory, and unfortunately, we continue to grow. I tell people all the time that I did not want to have a stroke but without it I would not have had the chance to meet all of these inspirational survivors in our group. I am a volunteer with the AHA/ASA in Springfield. I attended this year's Heart Ball and will be involved in May's Stroke Walk.

Dina Piersawl Chicago, IL

I suffered a mini-stroke on January 2, 2004, but my story began a few days earlier during the holidays.  I was visiting my parents in Kentucky and had a nagging headache.  My mother told me that my eyes looked funny and asked me what was wrong - a mother always knows when there is a problem with their children no matter how old we are.

I barely made it through the holidays with my parents, as each day the headache seemed to get worse.  When I returned to Chicago, I felt so terrible I decided to go to the emergency room.  I also felt like a football player was standing on my chest.  Being an ex-athlete, I just knew something was wrong.

Upon arrival to the ER on Dec. 30, my blood pressure was quite elevated so they put a nitroglycerin patch on my chest and left me in a holding room to see if my BP would go down.  My BP remained elevated and the intern that was treating me told me to call my doctor after the holiday.  He sent me home after a couple hours and told me my headache and elevated BP was probably due to ‘holiday stress’.

Once at home, my headache never ceased to stop hurting and that football player was still standing on my chest.  I thought I was going to die.  New Year's Day came and every pain I had was much worse. It was then I knew I needed to listen to my body.

I returned to the same ER on January 2, 2004.  My BP was off the charts, the admitting nurse looked at me as if I was going to die right there on the spot.  I will never forget her facial expression as it scared me to death.  They rushed me to a gurney, cut my shirt off, started IV's, slapped another nitroglycerin patch on my chest and rolled me into this cold, sterile room with this huge piece of equipment that looked like a spaceship.  I was scared to death and wanted my Mama!

The spaceship turned out to be the CAT scan equipment. After the scan was completed, I was taken back to the ER to await the doctor.

The ER doctor came in and asked, "How are you feeling?"  I was like, "you've got to be kidding right?!"  Then he showed me a photo of my brain, which showed the veins.  My brain had a tiny little spot on it.  The doctor explained that I had a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) or mini-stroke.

My first thought was “what?!!  Me?!!  I'm an ex-athlete, this can't be, and I’m in good shape” and on and on.  Then the doctor started examining me and it became very apparent that something was really wrong with the left side of my body.  I could not move my left arm or left leg. Honestly, this scared me more than hearing I had just had a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA).

It took eight weeks of in-house and hospital physical therapy to regain my left side.  In retrospect, I was very lucky.  My stroke was mild and I made a full recovery.  My blood pressure is under control and I am blessed.  I have residual damage on my left side.  It's not as strong as it once was but that's minor in the scheme of things. 


Kaelyn Mulcahy Apple Valley, MN

Last year, when I was 21, I had three strokes. I was at work when the first one happened. I was dizzy and a little disoriented with a bad headache on the left side of my head and sharp pain at the back of my neck. After an hour and still not feeling well I went home. I took a nap, which is when I believe I had the next two strokes since when I woke up I was so much worse. My head hurt even more and I couldn’t walk straight. I was so dizzy that it caused me to throw up four times. My roommate drove me to the ER. The doctor took a CT scan and when that was clear he ruled my symptoms as a really bad migraine. He gave me a pill for the nausea and the vertigo and told me to take Excedrin for my headache. My nausea and vertigo went away but no matter how often I took Excedrin Migraine for my headaches they never fully went away.

Four days later, April 4th, I passed out at work. I called my mom and she wanted me to see my primary doctor. I had a hard time getting in to see him. It wasn’t until my mom asked to speak with him personally that I got in. Bless him; he skipped his lunch on April 6th to see me. He didn’t like the sound of my symptoms and was angry that the ER doctors in didn’t do further testing. My doctor had me do an MRI and it showed three strokes in my cerebellum. I was immediately admitted into the ER and transferred to another hospital where I stayed for 4 days getting all kinds of tests done. Turns out I have a PFO (hole between my right and left atrial), a clotting disorder, hereditary high cholesterol, and a fainting disorder. The whole situation didn’t hit me until 2 ½ weeks after I was released.

I didn’t know myself that summer. I was sad at first then became angry. Finally I became scared. I was scared that I would have another stroke, one that would have lasting damage, and scared for my life. Mostly I was scared that since I will be considered a high risk pregnancy, I wouldn’t be able to have children, and if I could that something would happen to the baby. I was so depressed and stressed and I would snap at my roommates over everything. That’s not like me at all, I always felt so bad afterwards. I had to distract my mind every second of the day or else I would break down crying. Every night I cried myself to sleep. I cried so hard I got a bunch of little blood vessels under my eyes. I didn’t laugh for real until the beginning of July. I threw myself into my work; I would pick up shifts helping in lumber. I had to ask a day off every week to go to a doctor appointment, otherwise I worked every day. I didn’t have a day off for myself until mid- July. Once school started again I was better. I still had to distract myself during the day but I was mostly myself again. I am a lot better now, still struggle every now and then but I am doing good. I don’t want someone else my age, or anyone, to have to go through what I went through.

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