Worldwide, one in six people will have a stroke in their lifetime and stroke claims a life every six seconds. Oklahoma advocate Donna McDannold knows that statistic quite well. When Donna experienced her first stroke, she was playing in the backyard with her dogs.

As a neurological nurse, she knew all the signs too well – her left side started to feel weird. Words weren’t coming out like they usually do. “I went through the checklist in my head. I knew the signs. I tried to rationalize what I was experiencing.” Donna never imagined that she, in fact, was susceptible to having a stroke.

Like many stroke survivors, Donna thought she did everything right. She was raised a vegetarian and exercised often. As someone in the healthcare industry, Donna prides herself on her ability to care for others. However, the clinical part of her brain, the part that made her so capable to taking care of patients, prevented her from taking care of herself.

It took four hours for Donna to go to the hospital. Within ten days, Donna experienced three strokes. Four more strokes followed. There were days where Donna could barely speak or swallow. Donna knew that she couldn’t give up on her recovery. After five weeks of rehabilitation, Donna returned home to Tulsa and gave all her energy to her recover.

Donna admits that some days are a struggle. “Sometimes, I have to remind myself to laugh, and that each day will get better.  It is my sense of humor that helped me survive these strokes and battle back to the maximum recovery I got! Every day, having a sense of humor helps me cope with the remaining issues I deal with that would otherwise be so frustrating,” she said. 

Donna is now an active stroke advocate for the American Heart Association and participates in the Oklahoma State Stroke Systems Advisory Committee. She is committed to advocating for the needs and wellbeing of stroke patients.

On World Stroke Day, Donna will remember how lucky she is, and help spread the word, so everyone knows the F.A.S.T. stroke warning signs.