ST. PETERSBURG — Each year, nearly 130,000 Americans die from stroke. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), African Americans are more impacted by stroke than any other racial group within the American population. Stroke can happen to your neighbors, your loved ones, or even you. That’s why the AHA and Frontier Communications are working together to prevent, beat and treat stroke in the Tampa Bay community.
“Eighty percent of strokes are preventable. Together with the American Heart Association, we’re teaching community members the warning signs of stroke and providing people with resources about how to live heart healthy,” said Melanie Williams, senior vice president of Frontier Communications.
Since 2014, the two organizations have engaged more than 18,000 people face-to-face with the acronym F.A.S.T., which represents the major warning signs of stroke: Face drooping, Arm Weakness, Slurred Speech, Time to call 911.
In addition to raising awareness about stroke, Frontier and the AHA’s efforts have inspired others to come forward and share their story.
Yolande Petit-Homme, the mother of one of Frontier’s marketing managers, Jen Petit-Homme, had a stroke late last year. Yolande and her family have been telling her story with hopes that it will help save someone else’s life.
In September of 2015, Yolande checked into the hospital with a complaint of a headache. She left that evening before her results came in but returned the next day when she was experiencing the same symptoms. A CT scan revealed she had a mass on the right side of her brain. Due to the severity of her condition she was transported to another hospital where medical professionals were able to run additional tests to determine that Yolande had suffered from a stroke several days prior.
She stayed in the hospital for six days followed by nine days of inpatient rehabilitation where she worked on her motor skills and completing tasks like walking and dressing herself.
“I remember being in the stroke unit waiting area while my mother was in the hospital,” said Yolande’s daughter Jen. “There was an information center on the wall that had a number of educational brochures on topics such as understanding stroke and how to cope with it as a family member. And they were all provided by the American Heart Association. I took some of them home with me to read and was grateful for all the information that was shared.”
Yolande has always been an active and selfless individual, putting others needs before her own. She enjoyed taking care of her family, attending church throughout the week, shopping, reading, and giving out handwritten cards.
Now, eight months after the stroke, Yolande is focusing on her own health. She is able to walk without assistance, attend church again, and spend time doing things she enjoys with family and friends.
According to the American Heart Association’s 2016 Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics report, African-American stroke survivors are more likely to become disabled and have difficulty with activities of daily living.
While Yolande has made great progress she still experiences difficulties with certain tasks. She feels blessed to have a support system and caregiver in her husband.
“My father has been her rock. He wakes up every morning at 6 a.m. to prepare her breakfast. He takes her to all doctors’ appointments and therapy sessions. He calls in and picks up her prescription refills. And he does all the grocery shopping,” said Jen.
If Yolande’s husband is out of town, she finds strength in her friends, the Haitian community in Lakeland, her children and grandson.
“I visit my parents every weekend to prepare my mother’s prescription pill organizer for the upcoming week and to help with errands or housework,” said Jen. “My 6-year-old nephew visited my mom and told her to take care of herself because he missed being able to play with her. There’s an abundance of love and support in our family.”
The American Heart Association is encouraging everyone to become a Stroke Hero by learning the warning signs of stroke. Visit www.StrokeAssociation.org/StrokeHero to learn lifesaving knowledge.
Are you a stroke survivor or caregiver? You’re not alone. Visit www.Heart.org/SupportNetwork to connect with others.