I am so excited and proud to share Teri's story with you as American Heart month winds down. Teri is an amazing woman and a real testament to resilience. Teri is one of my Kansas City Go Red Ambassador heart sisters too. I cannot tell you how fortunate I am to be part of this group of such beautiful, amazing survivors! I am also so honored they have allowed me to share their stories during this very important month for all of us! Enjoy and learn from Teri's story!
I have been a nurse for ten years and a primary stroke care program coordinator for five. I have worked with the American Heart Association of Kansas City and the community that I grew up in for five years, educating about the signs and symptoms of heart disease and stroke, and working on data and quality improvement initiatives. I am also a runner! I have run for thirty years of my life. I got more serious about two years ago. I stepped up my game and in January of 2013 started training for my first full marathon. Those are two roles in my life that people identify me with; but my most important role is being a Mom to an amazing seventeen year old son named Parker.
In a twist of fate Memorial Day 2013, I had a stroke, while driving home from Starbucks with my son. Because of his knowledge and ability to keep calm, he got me to the nearest primary stroke care center ½ a mile away so I could get lifesaving treatment fast. Why does a healthy 43 year old runner have a stroke? I found out that I had a congenital heart defect that caused my stroke, as well as a heart arrhythmia called atrial fibrillation. I had been without symptoms my whole life. It can happen to anyone.
Twenty-six days after my stroke, I ran that marathon I had scheduled, with the support and unconditional love of my husband and son, as well as my priceless friends and family. I ran a second one before I had the heart defect corrected to prevent further complications. I am on long term blood thinning medications as well as medications to control my heart rhythm and rate. Even though everyone wanted to wrap me in bubble wrap and place me in a corner, they knew I would slowly wilt. They watched as I took the leap of faith, they believed in me, as they watched me learn to fly.
I have four marathons scheduled for 2014, and each one of them will be run in honor of all the women and families that heart disease affects. My stroke didn’t only change me physically, it changed my spirit, it changed my clinical practice, and it changed my resolve to educate and advocate for women’s heart health.
JFK stated “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try”. Those are words I live by every day. If I can help prevent another person from having heart disease or stroke, I am over the moon.
Watch Teri tell her story.