The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association's Puget Sound Division, along with our sponsor Medtronic, congratulates the honorees for this year's Stroke Hero Awards. We had amazing stories sent to us. Thank you to all of you who submitted a nomination. Here are some of the inspiring individuals honored this year as a Stroke Hero.
AMY MOORE, Stroke Survivor
Amy is described as a truly an inspiring person who has never let her stroke stop her from accomplishing her goals. Her stroke was diagnosed at six months of age and left her legally blind. Amy learned Braille during her first two years of high school and after graduating went on to get a teaching degree, followed by a master's degree in special education. Today she is a gifted special education teacher. "She loves her job and the children in her classroom," says her mother Christine Moore. "They are fortunate to have a teacher who helps them strive to accomplish their individual goals. I am proud to call Amy my daughter."
CATHERINE AMLIE-LEFOND,MD, Pediatric Stroke Doctor
Dr. Amlie-Lefond is hero to many families dealing with pediatric strokes. She is the Director of the Pediatric Vascular Neurology Program at Seattle Children's Hospital, which diagnoses and treats hundreds of children impacted by stroke. Dr. Lafond is a vascular neurologist who is a leader nationally in the treatment of stroke in children. According to Kaysee Hyatt, the mom of a pediatric stroke survivor and who nominated the doctor, Dr. Amlie-Lefond is also an advocate for increasing visibility of strokes in children in the healthcare setting and for increasing support among families. A true hero appreciated by many!
DAVID & PATRICIA WEBER, Caregiver & Stroke Survivor
David and Patricia, who recently became "snow birds" retiring to Palm Springs, have been through a lot over the past year and a half. At the age of 68, Patricia suffered four strokes in the span of 13 months. Each hemorrhagic (bleeding) stroke was complicated by a prescription for a blood thinner from a heart valve replacement 20 years ago. During her recovery from each stroke, Patricia was taken off her blood thinner and put at risk for a major clot that could be fatal. Thankfully a clot never developed and she remained a fighter throughout. "Over the last 15 months, since the first stroke, I have never seen my mom give up," says her daughter. "She has defied all the odds, exceeded all expectations from doctors, and keeps fighting to get back to where she was before the strokes started. She has inspired all those who know her, and those who don't but know her story." David & Patricia's daughter nominated not only her mom but also her dad as a Stroke Hero, to acknowledge the dedication and love he had shown throughout her mom's recovery, from helping her get dressed to brushing her hair. "I think he considers it an honor to take care of her," says their daughter.
CHRIS FUGITT, Stroke Survivor
Chris Fugitt, a dedicated member of the United States Air Force stationed at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, was happily married with a young son in January 2013 when health issues requiring a prescription for blood thinners set off a chain of medical crises for the next two years that no one could imagine. Just 10 days after being placed on the medication, Chris was transported to a local hospital then life-flighted when he experience the worst headache of his life. Diagnosed with a stroke that the local ER doctor described as most likely fatal, he started to recover his ability to speak and walk at a recovery center near his home. During recovery Chris unexpectedly went in to heart failure and needed open heart surgery to replace his aortic valve. Now enduring stroke rehabilitation along with cardiac therapy, Chris realized his dream of a lifelong career of service to his country was out the window. But due to his amazing recovery, he is now participating in the Air Force Wounded Warrior Games, playing on nearly every team from wheelchair basketball to archery, even being invited to West Point to play on the national team. According to Chris' wife, "My husband has served his country and then had to go through more obstacles then anyone in a lifetime should have to." But he is living life to the fullest with no regrets.
DJINA MEIROW, Caregiver
Djina was nominated by her sister Gail who describes her as the most giving person she will ever meet. Djina is a mother and wife to Larry who suffered a stroke. Gail says, "I know now Djina's purpose in life here on earth, and that is to help Larry and other stroke victims." Djina is always doing what will help Larry, including physical therapy, and because of her dedication he is able to walk short distances today. Djina is often called in by Larry's doctors and nurses to come and talk to new stroke patients or help at the hospital because she is wonderful with the patients. She also sends out greeting cards to a large group of stroke survivors and she has sent hundreds. Her sister says, "Djina is one amazing person and I feel very blessed to know her."
EDITH JACKSON, Stroke Survivor
Edith suffered a stroke when she was just 18 years old and mother to an 11-month-old baby. The night before her stroke, Edith felt numbness and wondered what was wrong with her. She went to bed and by the next morning, she couldn't move. Edith called her cousin who lived close by and got him to help. The stroke left her right side paralyzed and in the hospital for six weeks. Edith had to learn how to walk and write again. Edith was nominated by the staff at the Brain Injury Alliance of WA. According to them, "Edith not only volunteers with BIAWA every week, but she also took charge of organizing a whole cadre of volunteers for the organization. She brings together brain injury survivors to not only help BIAWA, but to also engage socially. This helps the brain injury survivors obtain the highest quality of life possible. Edith always steps up to the plate whenever BIAWA needs a volunteer."
FRANKIE ORR, Boxing/Mixed Martial Arts Trainer
"My hero, Frankie Orr, gave me the will to live after suffering a stroke that paralyzed my left side," says Al Patis. Al's passion was working with Parkinson's Disease patients to teach them to improve their quality of life through a cardio-boxing program. Last November he crossed the street to get lunch when he suddenly lost his balance and fell. Then Al began slurring his words and his co-worker called 911. The stroke left him devastated. Frankie Orr is the boxing and mixed martial arts trainer with a background in physical therapy who helped Al walk again and regain movement on his left side. "Frankie never quit on me and after six months, I finally taught my first boxing class to a group of Parkinson's patients at the Seattle Downtown YMCA." Frankie and Al continue to work together for Al's recovery.
GAEBLE KING, Stroke Survivor
"Gaeble has overcome amazing odds after suffering a stroke at birth," says his mother, Tonia King. "He went through years of speech and occupational therapy, simply to learn how to talk. It didn't come easily for him, but even as a child, he simply buckled down and did what was needed to succeed." Gaeble's stroke has left him with residual learning disabilities and aphasia. Despite the challenges, he graduated high school and is currently in college studying geology. "He's fought every step of the way for his good grades, spending hours each week with tutors in order to understand concepts that come easier to others," says Tonia. He also has a heart for service, achieving ranking as an Eagle Scout, volunteering at the local food back, and providing community service through his church. He is a good friend to many. "Gaeble truly epitomizes the reality that there is life beyond a stroke. And, if you ever meet him, he'd love to tell you about that life, using the voice he fought so hard to gain."
HEIDI HALLGREN, Caregiver
Heidi is a mom and a caregiver for several loved ones. Her 10-year-old daughter had a stroke at birth, which resulted in serious disabilities and the need for full-time care. Heidi has never left her side. Three years ago on Christmas, Heidi's mother suffered minor strokes. She also takes care of her dad who needs home dialysis 5-6 times per week. According to her sister, "She is so selfless with her time that she gets very little time to herself but she loves her family and would not change and thing. I just want to give her kudos for doing such a great job and always being there. She is a wonderful mom to her older son, along with being a great wife, daughter and sister."
JAMES JACKSON, Caregiver
James was nominated by his family for being an amazing caregiver to his wife, Elaine, who had a hemorrhagic stroke last year. Following the stroke his wife underwent brain surgery, spent 11 days in the ICU, and five weeks in in-patient rehab. "During those 47 days, my husband rarely left my side, and when I came home, he helped me to dress, bathe, eat, get up and lie down, and consoled me on my many dark days when all I could do was cry. It was truly a traumatic time not only for me, but for him and our children. Nonetheless, he was always gentle, patient and encouraging." Their children call Elaine's recovery a "total miracle," and she recently went back to work full-time at her former job after more than a year of out-patient and in-home rehab. She and James just celebrated their 46th wedding anniversary!
JAYDEN LOMAS, Stroke Survivor
"Jayden Lomas is incredibly inspiring to all who know him. He is an awesome student, an amazing young athlete, and a loyal friend and teammate," said one of the eight people that nominated him. Jayden suffered a stroke at birth and his parents were told that there was a good chance he would not be able to walk or talk. Jayden proved them wrong. "I taught Jayden when he was 3 and 4 in a preschool special needs class," said Robin Zeligson. "That little boy had more spirit and determination in his little body than any adult I know." Jayden touches many lives and also understands the importance of educating friends, family and peers on pediatric strokes. He continues to defy the odds every day and inspires everyone to always keep trying and to never give up.
KYLIE FAITH BRYAN-POHANO, Stroke Survivor
"My little girl suffered a stroke due to a brain aneurysm when she was 3-1/2 years old," says her mom. "She is now almost 6 years old. She is still recovering. She goes to therapy every week since it happened. She is trying to regain the use of her left hand and leg. She is an amazing little girl she is so positive and doesn't let this get her down. She's so brave. She's so kind hearted and tries to help others in need. She is definitely a hero."
PHIL PIERSON, Stroke Survivor
Phil is a firefighter and paramedic who experienced a stroke in 2011 while sleeping. He woke up and noticed that his right side was numb, causing him to fall but Phil didn't think much of it. Later on he had to disarm the home security system but couldn't remember the code. The alarm went off and the sheriff's deputy showed up. By this time Phil had completely lost his ability to speak and couldn't explain that he wasn't an intruder. The deputy, who was about to arrest him, luckily found his firefighter ID and called the fire department, and then called 911 realizing that Phil's inability to speak was not normal. Phil spent the next few months learning to speak and write again. Today he speaks with a Swedish accent! He also needed surgery to fix a hole in his heart, which had been unaware of his entire life and which caused the stroke.
VEOLA TAYLOR, Caregiver
As caregiver for her entire family, Veola was dedicated to making sure her son and husband, who both had disabilities, had the care they needed. So when her husband -- a World War II veteran - suffered a serious stroke, she knew that the only option was to care for him and fight for the care he deserved. "Some people told me to put him in a nursing home and go on with my life. But I could not do that because he was my other half," she says. Veola took care of her husband for two years before he passed away, and was able to bring him home for the last six months of his life. She is the perfect example of a Stroke Hero who fights for others, and learned a lot about strokes from helping a good friend who had a stroke. She is also 17-year member of the Port Orchard Lions Club, helping the blind, diabetics, and those who are hard-of-hearing. She sits on the Kitsap County Developmental Disabilities Advisory Board and reports. "My motto is treat people the way you want to be treated," she remarks.
VIRGINIO AGUER-VALLE, Stroke Survivor
Virginio is a 76-year-old stroke survivor nominated by Catholic Charity Services. When he was released from the hospital, he could not walk more than a few steps and his right hand was curled tightly. According to the staff, Virginio did not let his condition define or limit him and took total responsibility for his own physical therapy. The therapist at the doctor's office had not been able to loosen muscular constrictions in his hand, but he would sit working on his right left hands. He has regained some use of the right. Virginio goes for short walks on a safe route and the staff say he is awe inspiring to watch.
To learn more about strokes, visit StrokeAssociation.org/strokehero.