Stefanie Cohen, 32, and Pierre George Bonnefil, 61, are a generation apart but they have a lot in common. They both live in New York City, they both have rewarding careers, and most importantly, they are both stroke survivors who credit their significant other for saving their life.
Stefanie, who was 29 and working long hours as a social worker when she experienced her stroke in May 2016, thanks her husband Jonathan for recognizing her symptoms as signs of a stroke and calling 9-1-1 immediately.
“When my body gave out on me and he found me struggling with a weak arm, leg, facial droop and inability to speak coherently, Jonathan had two choices. The first was to believe me when I said, ‘I’m fine, I’m fine, just let me go to sleep’ or to go with his gut, ignore me and do what was right: call 9-1-1,” she says.
According to the doctors at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue who treated Stefanie, it was Jonathan’s swift action that allowed her to reach the hospital within two hours and receive the time-sensitive medication that eventually broke up the blood clot in her brain.
“If you don’t get it in time, you don’t have as good a chance of recovery,” she said. “Thanks to Jonny, I made it. And for that I will always be grateful.”
Doctors said Stefanie suffered a cryptogenic stroke, which is a type of diagnosis given to people younger than 55 years old when there is no identifiable cause. Stefanie is among the growing number of people under 50 for whom stroke is becoming more common.
But, unlike many people in her age group, she was not one to partake in risky behavior like smoking or living with untreated high blood pressure. Instead, she exercised regularly, was an avid runner and was conscientious about what she ate and drank.
Now, more than three years after her stroke, Stefanie thanks Jonathan and her “great support system” of family and friends for “helping her overcome this whole thing.”
“Stroke does not discriminate that why it’s really important to have that love and support,” she says.
Pierre George Bonnefil was what his wife, Marysia, describes as a weekend warrior. During the week, he regularly worked 10-12-hour days as an immigration attorney but balanced that schedule by hitting the gym and staying physically active on weekends.
His grueling schedule caught up to him one morning in February 2013 when he and Marysia were getting ready for work. It was then that she noticed his face had begun to droop, and he suddenly could not move his left arm. Marysia immediately called 9-1-1.
He was rushed to the New York Presbyterian/ Weil Cornell Medical Center and diagnosed with a middle cerebral artery stroke, meaning that one of the largest blood vessels in the brain was blocked. Thanks to Marysia’s resolve, he was given the appropriate clot-busting drug and treatment only 74 minutes after his symptoms began.
“Not everyone is as fortunate as I was. I had the love of my life watching over me,” Pierre says. But Marysia doesn’t see it that way.
“People tell me I’m a hero for saving Pierre’s life. What I am is a loving wife and strong woman who knows when to call for help” Marysia says.
Marysia calls true heroes the people who helped them in that moment of crisis: her apartment building staff, the EMTs who treated Pierre and comforted her on route to the hospital, and the doctors and nurses who treated him and stayed with him throughout his rehabilitation.
In honor of World Stroke Day, today, we encourage you to register for the 2020 CycleNation event – a campaign to put heart and brain health on a platform, celebrate Stroke Survivors and Caregivers, remember loved ones lost and educate and build awareness.
CycleNation, an indoor, team, relay-style spin event will take place on Wednesday, June 10th at Tribeca360. Sign up today at CycleNation.org/NYC or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
Diego is the Communications Director for the American Heart Association in New York City. He loves sharing powerful stories that inspire people to take control of their health.