43-year-old never expected a stroke

Mickey Orta and Family

Mickey Orta attributed  a week of migraines and pain in the back of his head to work travel.

But on a Friday night in March 2019, on his way to dinner with his wife, Maggie, the then-43-year-old felt a little queasy and off balance as they walked to the hostess station. Seated in the booth, he slumped to the left, leaning against the wall, and couldn’t feel anything all the way down his body.

“My wife checked her phone, and told me I was having a stroke,” Orta, who is a Senior Vice President in the Wealth Management group at NBT Bank, said. “I didn’t believe it. She and the waiter pulled me out of the booth, and my wife took me to Glens Falls Hospital.”

After the MRI and CT scan, he felt much better, and was looking forward to skiing the next day with his son Nicolas. Instead, he learned that he had suffered a stroke, and would be admitted to the hospital.

Orta will share his story during the local portion of One CycleNation, on Thursday, Oct. 29, which is also World Stroke Day, at 6 p.m. via Zoom. To join the event, click on https://heart.zoom.us/j/95196137525?pwd=ZjE2NTBJSnRUTVRhVHNrZ3pCTlEvZz09&from=msft;. It will be followed by a national digital event celebrating all the CycleNation events in the nation. Begun as a stationary cycling event, CycleNation 2020 has expanded, and participants are engaging in the exercise of their choice throughout the month of October as part of a national effort to raise $1 million and log 1 million miles of exercise. To participate, register at CycleNation.org/CapitalRegionNY. Funds raised will support the kind of research that can help keep save lives like Orta’s.

“I was 43 years old, really healthy, with a good job, a great family, and in fairly good shape,” Orta said. “Lo and behold, all of a sudden, I wasn’t. The world changed from that point on.”

Orta learned that a clot had blocked a blood vessel, which had caused the stroke. During his seven-day stay in the hospital, he also suffered one or two mini-strokes. Once the right treatments were found, Orta said he “was good.”

“I had some weakness at first, and sometimes, words would form in my brain but not come out,” he said. He also met with a cardiologist, to rule out heart problems. Today, he takes cholesterol and blood pressure medication, and a blood thinner. He also made some serious lifestyle changes.

“I started eating really well,” he said. “I eat a lot of vegetables, fish, and stopped eating red meat and poultry. I learned that I was deficient in a lot of vitamins. I also exercise 6 times a week. I’ve lost 30 pounds, and I’m in great shape.”

Orta said that the mental aspect of the stroke is something he still deals with every day.

“I was only 43, and kept thinking, what if it happens again,” he said. “You come out of the hospital and you think you’re all put together. But some of us need more help than others. I was grappling with the fact that I knew I wanted to be here for another 40 years. I want to see my kids, my grandchildren, grow up. It’s really important that people reach out and have a network, and get the help they need.”

In addition to his son Nicolas, Orta has two daughters, Madeleine and Sophia.

Raising awareness is a big part of the reason that Orta, who was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Queensbury, is supporting CycleNation.

“The Heart and Stroke Association are really important to me,” he said. “I worry about my age demographic. We don’t always take care of ourselves the way we should. We don’t listen to our bodies; we don’t think anything like this can happen till we’re up in age. I want to get the message out that that we need to take care of ourselves now. The American Heart Association is a great way to do that. There’s great information on their Web site, heart.org. CycleNation is a great way for people to be involved, to take care of themselves, and to help the American Heart Association keep taking care of all of us.”

“We’re all grateful that Mickey is sharing his story,” said Alan Boulos, M.D., chair of neurosurgery at Albany Med and co-chair of CycleNation with Kate Fruscione of CAP COM Federal Credit Union. “Stroke doesn’t always hurt, and it’s important for people to hear what the signs of stroke are. I’m also glad Mickey is talking openly about what happens after a stroke. We’re still at a rudimentary level of managing stress. The first step is awareness, and it’s important that people know their family history and take care of their own health. I’m looking forward to hearing more from him at CycleNation.”

To participate in CycleNation, register at CycleNation.org/CapitalRegionNY.