In 1991, at 28 years of age and 6 months pregnant, I experienced a stroke causing blindness in my left eye for a period of 3 years. The cause - a hole in my heart. I was told I needed open heart surgery to close the hole and that I might not survive the birth of my son. It was a most frightening period of time in my life, but thankfully, God doubly blessed me with life – the birth of my son and my survival. I underwent a successful open-heart surgery to correct the condition and I am happy to say that today, my son Drew and I are in excellent health.
My experience taught me that we all are susceptible to this silent killer. It was years later at an American Heart Association event that I heard a cardiac surgeon describe in detail the signs and symptoms of stroke and the damaging after effects. Looking back, I recognized that what I thought were migraines and stress from divorce, work and single motherhood were in fact symptoms of stroke. Thank goodness God was not ready for me and allowed me to overcome each and every episode. He evidently had a plan for me to survive, become educated and to pay that education forward. This is why I am so committed to the American Heart Association’s mission of building healthier lives free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Through my advocacy work with the AHA I truly feel that I am making a difference in people’s lives. It was also a wonderful gift to have my son Drew become a Youth Advocate and share this experience with me. Together we have lobbied and educated state and federal leaders on many critical issues including access to stroke care, obesity and tobacco prevention, and why it is so important to further fund heart and stroke research at the CDC and NIH.
We need to overcome and conquer the No. 1 and No. 4 killers in this country – and I have learned that our voices can truly inspire change. In the time that Drew and I have donated our energies to this great cause, we saw stroke drop from the No. 3 to the No. 4 killer! Although we got our messages and personal stories across, we still need to do more so we can eventually wipe out these diseases. I hope you will join us in the fight. Remember…You’re the Cure!