My Stroke Story

by Lorraine C. Ladish

I live in fear of disease. I'm terrified by a deadly disease that runs in my family -- stroke.

I've taken myself to the emergency room a few times while suffering terrible headaches, suspecting that I might be on the verge of having a stroke. I've even had CAT scans and MRIs to rule out a brain aneurysm. Fortunately, they've turned out to be nothing more than migraines. But these experiences scared me.

When my oldest daughter, now 14, used to complain about bad headaches, I was scared it was a sign of an approaching stroke. Eventually, her headaches subsided. She seems to be fine now and is active.

My lifelong fear of stroke is because my mother had a massive one caused by a brain aneurysm when she was only 28. As a child, she battled headaches so painful that she'd cry.

I didn't get to meet my mother's father. He died of a stroke the year I was born.

My dad raised me after my parents separated when I was 6 so I didn't understand what had happened to my mother a couple of years later.

I did learn that doctors told her she'd never recover. Her peripheral vision is gone forever, and she is considered disabled. But with determination and all kinds of physical therapy, my mom figured how to do most things with her left hand and learned to read and write again.

Her stroke has not slowed her down. She uses public transportation to get around town. And once, when I visited her, I accompanied her on a hike. I was impressed by her endurance. She's swam, biked and traveled abroad on her own.

My mother is a Stroke Hero. She has never let her stroke define her. Once when she was visiting me in Seville, Spain, I asked her whether she was scared of having another stroke. She said that once you've been so close to death, you just don't think about it anymore. You simply keep on going. And that's exactly what she's done.

Yes, my fear is still real. But I'm overcoming it by fighting stroke. And I'm raising awareness -- especially among Hispanics. Here's why:

• Hispanic women are less likely to know most of the warning signs of a stroke.
• Spanish-speaking Hispanics are less likely to know all stroke symptoms than English-speaking Hispanics, non-Hispanic blacks and non-Hispanic whites.
• Hispanics and Latinos are at a greater risk of stroke because of higher rates of obesity and diabetes. Unfortunately, stroke prevalence is projected to increase by 29 percent in Hispanic men by 2030.

So don't be paralyzed by fear or lack of knowledge. Learn the signs of stroke. If you recognize them and call 9-1-1 immediately, you could save someone's life -- including yours.

May is American Stroke Month. To learn more about stroke risks, symptoms, and prevention, visit the American Stroke Association.

Lorraine C. Ladish, founder of, is a volunteer for the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.