Guest Blogger: Namya Malik; 15 year old daughter of a stroke survivor

Two years ago, I woke up in the morning to my dad yelling at my brother and me that there was something wrong with my mother. When I rushed out of bed, I found my dad trying to help my mother walk down the stairs. My mom’s face was droopy, her speech was slurred, and her movements were uncoordinated – all the warning signs of a stroke that no one in my family recognized at the time. My dad took her to the hospital, and my brother and I waited at home. A few hours later, my dad called and told us that she had suffered a stroke. The doctors discovered that she had a congenital heart defect called atrial septal defect. This defect enabled direct blood flow between two compartments of her heart which caused a blood clot and prompted the stroke.

My mother spent three weeks in rehabilitation and has had several surgeries to repair her heart defect, but her stroke has had a lasting impact on her life. She lives with a condition called atrial fibrillation which puts her at great risk for another stroke. Her right hand is still weak, and she writes very slowly. Her speech is impaired also, and she often slurs and mispronounces words. Yet, she has shown remarkable courage, made significant progress, and can perform daily activities without help.

When my mother suffered the stroke, I barely knew what a stroke was, and I was oblivious to its severity and consequences. Seeing my mother live with her disabilities has motivated me to raise awareness about stroke. By educating other people about heart health and stroke, I hope to prepare them to recognize the symptoms of a stroke so that they can help in an emergency. For certain types of strokes, doctors can minimize damage to the brain tissue if a patient reaches the medical facility within four hours, so recognizing the symptoms of stroke is crucial. I have recently started working with the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association to help raise awareness about heart disease and strokes in my community. I plan to start a club in my school that promotes heart health and encourages students to lead healthy lives, and I intend to talk about and demonstrate CPR in classrooms.

I would like to invite everyone reading this to get involved and help raise awareness about stroke. Research shows that stroke is the number one preventable cause of disability in the United States, so increasing awareness is pivotal if we want to avoid the debilitating consequences of strokes. Whether you want to organize a large fundraising event to support stroke research or simply discuss ways to lead healthy lives with your friends, your actions can help reduce the prevalence of strokes. Your efforts could save a life or prevent a person from living with a disability.

Think F.A.S.T. and get to know the warning signs of stroke: StrokeAssociation.org/warningsigns.