Patty Jackson: Don’t ignore the warning signs of a stroke
Photo Credit ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER – Philadelphia Inquirer
I’ve been on the radio for over 35 years, and I love my job at Philadelphia’s WDAS. I love my job so much that it’s easy to say yes to working overtime, to covering local events, and to getting over-worked. Four years ago, my body told me it was time to slow down.
My mother had suffered a stroke when she was 81, and I was her primary caregiver until she passed away. Taking care of my mother and my teenage son while juggling the demanding schedule of my career was stressful. But then in the fall of 2015 I lost my mother, which took a toll on my emotional strength like nothing ever had before.
But I trudged on — working at the station seven days a week and doing numerous appearances after work. Nothing like a busy schedule to numb the mind, right?
Out of nowhere, in Nov. 2015, I collapsed. I didn't stumble. I didn’t trip. I just suddenly hit the ground. But I got right back up and kept moving – I had work to do!
That week, in particular, was packed. I had a big show on the books, so I ignored the fact that my right side felt weak.
Two days went by before I got around to visiting a doctor. By then, my right side had continued to weaken, to the point where I could barely lift my right arm.
That’s when my doctors told me I’d had a stroke.
My condition deteriorated quickly. Soon I couldn’t pick up my right arm at all. I couldn’t hold a pen. I couldn’t even see straight. My body was saying, “We need a break.” I was in the hospital for weeks recovering and going through rehab to regain use of the right side of my body. It was a long, challenging road to recovery.
I was in the hospital for a month focusing on my health. But as soon as I was released, I was back in the studio. Getting back to work and into my routine was part of my healing process.
But my return to work came with a few new rules. No more overscheduling. No more ignoring my own health and wellbeing to get the job done.
My mother’s stroke should have been my first warning sign. A family history of stroke can raise your risk, as some strokes can be caused by genetic disorders.
My gender and race also made me more susceptible. Statistics show that African Americans have a much higher risk of death from stroke than Caucasians. Women are also more prone to strokes than men, and strokes are often more fatal for women. As women, we tend to prioritize the needs of everyone around us above our own. But we must make a change.
In Philadelphia, roughly 2,136 out of 100,000 deaths are caused by stroke. Don’t become a statistic. Make regular appointments with your doctor. Be your own health care advocate. Listen to your body and take care of yourself. Don’t let a stroke be your wake-up call.
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