By Stacy Quinn, Guest Blogger
My stroke heroes rock red dresses and stilettos. They raise money for life-saving research and health programs. And they’re always willing to share their stories of courage and triumph to help save lives.
They’re fearless women who have survived health crises ranging from heart attacks and strokes to rare diseases.
My stroke heroes are the Go Red For Women survivor ambassadors.
Why Red is My Favorite Color
Why are these women my heroes? Because they were there for me with compassion and understanding at a time when no one else could fathom what I was experiencing.
Just a little over a year ago, I was 41 years old, in the best shape of my life and had no health concerns. Yet despite my young age and excellent health, I experienced a spontaneous carotid artery dissection and a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA), or “mini-stroke.”
To this day, the causes of my carotid artery dissection are unknown. When I suffered mine, I had many questions and concerns about a medical crisis I knew absolutely nothing about. I struggled to make sense of why it happened to me and if it could happen again. Even though I had caring family and friends, I felt alone because no one truly understood what I was going through. But that changed when a friend invited me to last year’s Garden State Go Red For Women luncheon.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I went filled with hope and eagerness to connect and learn. At the survivor reception, I remember walking into a sea of red. Everywhere I looked, all I could see were heart and stroke survivors dressed in red—and unified by their shared experience.
Women welcomed me with hugs and shared their stories. One survivor was born with heart defects and had her first surgery at three months old. Another had suffered multiple TIAs and two serious strokes. One hero survived a blot clot that went her heart causing 100% blockage. And another suffered two spontaneous coronary artery dissections and a heart attack.
That’s when I met my friend Janice, a courageous and caring open heart surgery survivor. As I fought back tears and she held my hand, I shared my story with her and she told me about her ordeal. After the luncheon, Janice sent me emails asking how I was doing and took me to dinner to give me advice on how to cope with a major health crisis.
Suddenly, I wasn’t alone anymore, and my crisis seemed so small compared to the ones these women were sharing with me. At that moment, my emotional healing began. I owe that—and so much more—to my group of new friends.
Learning to Be Grateful
Through Go Red, I have met so many kind, brave and strong women who have taught me just how precious life is. They made me realize I was much stronger than I ever thought and that I needed to appreciate life. I now keep a gratitude journal to remind me of the wonderful people, things and experiences that surround me each day.
Meeting these women inspired me to become a Go Red For Women ambassador and help people learn the warning signs of a stroke and understand that stroke can happen to anyone. I share my story and teach people about FAST an easy way to remember stroke symptoms:
- F – face drooping
- A – arm weakness
- S – difficulty speaking
- T – time to call 911 if you spot any of these symptoms
Meet my stroke heroes on May 20
Attend the Garden State Go Red For Women Luncheon at the Princeton Marriott on May 20 when heart and stroke survivors will come together to share their stories, raise awareness and help raise funds for cardiovascular research. You’ll be inspired by my stroke heroes and I’ll share my story with you.
Visit the website to purchase tickets and learn more. I hope to see you there.
Stacy Quinn is a survivor ambassador for the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association. Follow her on Twitter @women_stroke.