May is American Stroke Month so we’d like to introduce you to three ladies who are courageous stroke survivors. Each woman has a unique story, and each one offers something important for everyone to learn.
JESI BOWMAN: 5-TIME CRYPTOGENIC STROKE SURVIVOR
Surviving any stroke is an accomplishment, but Jesi Bowman of Lexington, Kentucky has had five strokes and recovered fully from each one. Also surprising is that she is only in her mid-30s. She was our Heart Ball Open Your Heart spokesperson in 2012, and suffered her last stroke just a few days after the event. Today she’s a strong advocate who encourages people to be aware of their risks, and to take every precaution possible such as healthy eating and regular exercise. Her strokes fall into the category of being “cryptogenic,” which simply means that the source of her strokes remains unknown. (This is the case in about a third of all strokes.) Recently, a link was found between cryptogenic strokes and atrial fibrillation, which is uneven, irregular heartbeats. AFib can cause blood to pool in the left atrium, where a blood clot can form. If the clot breaks away and travels to the brain, it can cause a stroke. Medtronic, one of our supporters and the world’s third largest medical device company, has launched a major initiative that brings together patients, caregivers, and the medical community to explore this link, boost awareness, and establish best practices on how to diagnose and reduce the risk of secondary cryptogenic strokes. Learn more about cryptogenic stroke by clicking here.
Jennifer is a registered nurse, and served as Director of Critical Care Services at the Kingwood Medical Center in Houston, TX. At 58, she was working in the ICU when she started having dizziness, blurred vision, and loss of feeling in her left side. She knew what the symptoms were indicating, but thought, “I am too busy for this to happen. I have to work. This can’t be happening to me.” But it was happening, and fortunately her staff knew just what to do. They were able to bring her blood pressure down from being “sky high,” and gave her an IV treatment to dissolve the clot. That was all 2 ½ years ago, and today Jennifer is free of serious long-term neurological damage. She credits the quick thinking of her medical staff for minimizing the damage to her brain and helping her make a strong recovery. Not every stroke victim experiences every symptom, but Jennifer did. If you’ve never learned the simple FAST acronym for stroke symptoms, just click here.
At just 24, Bri was getting an early start before heading to work as a
TV meteorologist and news reporter in Los Angeles. She was up at 5 a.m. to get ready for a spin class when she lost hearing in her right ear, then numbness spread from her face to her right arm and leg. At the time she didn’t know what was going on. She called her sister who suggested she eat something. She crawled to the kitchen but couldn’t keep any food down. Her sister called one of Bri’s friends who knew enough to call 911. An hour and a half after the ordeal started, the paramedics arrived. They took her to the hospital where a CAT scan revealed a blood clot in her brain had caused an ischemic stroke. She was treated with tPA, a clot busting drug which brought back feeling to her face, arm, and leg. Within two days, she was back on her feet again. That was three years ago, and today Bri is an ambassador with the American Stroke Association and a member of the Western States Stroke Task Force, helping support efforts to raise awareness. She shares her story at conferences, luncheons, fundraisers, and was featured on “Good Morning America” in 2014. As frightening as her stroke was, she says it had a silver lining: “It’s given me a life purpose. I felt so fortunate to have survived, as soon as I recovered I wanted to give back as much as possible.” As Bri has shown, anyone can have a stroke. So be ready! Click here to test yourself with our Stroke Quiz.
TELL YOUR FRIENDS ABOUT THE DANGERS OF STROKE
One out of six people will suffer a stroke in his or her lifetime. There’s much more to learn about this very serious topic, so please take a look at this terrific stroke resource page. Please feel free to share it with your friends and post on social media during Stroke Awareness Month.