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Alicia's Legacy: A Call to Action Against Stroke


As we observe American Stroke Month, we must rally together to raise awareness about this silent, yet devastating, health issue. I know very well the impact that stroke can have on a family, as it claimed the life of my sister Alicia way too early. At the time of her death 11 years ago, Alicia was a healthy, strong, beautiful mother of 4 and grandmother of one. She exercised regularly, ate right and took good care of herself. She loved to dance and host Sunday dinners for friends and family. All of the neighborhood children knew "Ms. Lisa's" house was the fun house where popsicles and juice boxes were always in great supply! Alicia also loved butterflies, traveling, attending church and most sports. She was the light of our family and yet, despite her best efforts, her life was tragically and unexpectedly cut short at the age of 46 due to a blood clot-related stroke. Her passing was a stark reminder to my family that stroke can affect anyone, regardless of their lifestyle.

I never dreamed my sister and I wouldn't grow old together. Old, cranky and eccentric to be exact. You see, Alicia was more than just my sister. A mere 11 months apart in age, she was my first best friend. As my big sister, she taught me how to be more of a fighter. As her little sister, I taught her how to be more of a negotiator. We went through school together, raised our children together and never lived far from each other. She served as a surrogate mother to my children and me to hers. Two peas in a pod. That was us until September 10, 2013, at 6:14 a.m., when life as I knew it, changed forever. Struck down in the prime of her life, Alicia's story serves as a poignant reminder of the unpredictable, insidious nature of stroke.

Alicia's children were her "why" in every sense of the word. Her every endeavor as a mom was for the health, safety and well-being of her children. Theirs was a bond that could not be broken. To say the pain from her absence is palpable in the lives of her children would be the understatement of the century. Anthony, Timothy, La-Iecia and Avery. They all miss their mom. My parents, who had to summon the strength and courage to bury their eldest daughter, miss her terribly. Sadly, the grandchildren who came after her death will never know her. As her family, we are not over her death but have no choice but to learn how to live without her.

Then there’s the survivor's guilt. Like grief, it comes and goes in waves. Washing over me when I least expect it, reminding me I am human and that death is final. Forcing me to choose between living and laughing again or staying tethered to my ruminating thoughts of, “Why her and not me? She was the healthy one. Why am I still here?”

Stroke remains a leading cause of death and disability globally, affecting people of all ages and backgrounds. Black Americans have a disproportionately higher prevalence of stroke and the highest death rate from stroke compared to any other racial group. Among other factors, this may be a result of unmanaged risk factors and socioeconomic disparities.

This month serves as a reminder of the importance of understanding stroke risks, recognizing its symptoms and taking proactive steps to prevent it. Stroke is often preventable, and education is key. According to the American Stroke Association, knowing the risk factors—such as high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking and obesity—and making lifestyle changes can significantly reduce the likelihood of experiencing a stroke. Regular exercise, a healthy diet and routine medical check-ups can all play a vital role in stroke prevention.

Equally important is recognizing the signs of a stroke and acting quickly. The acronym F.A.S.T.—Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 911—can help individuals identify a stroke and seek immediate medical attention. Time is of the essence in stroke treatment, and every minute counts in preventing long-term disability or even death. Beyond individual action, community involvement is critical in stroke prevention and support. American Stroke Month is an opportunity for communities to come together to educate, support, and empower one another. Through community events, educational programs and support groups, we can raise awareness, reduce stigma, and improve outcomes for those affected by stroke. Let us commit to taking proactive steps to prevent stroke in ourselves, our loved ones and our communities. Together, we can make a difference in the fight against stroke.

To learn more about stroke, visit the American Stroke Association’s website at stroke.org.

La-Sandra Jones lives in Lakewood and is a social service professional for the State of WA. She volunteers for the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association to inspire others to take lifesaving action against stroke.


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