At the age of 41, Stacy Quinn was in the best shape of her life and had no reason to think she was at risk of anything other than a maybe a common cold. Stacy, a communications director, exercised more than regularly, had normal blood pressure and low cholesterol. In truth, many considered her to be the epitome of perfect health. Then the unthinkable happened. In late December 2014, she experienced the worst headache of her life—one that she ranks a 9.0 on a scale of 1 to 10. And it was one she couldn’t shake—even after two days. Then, while at a meeting a work, she started to have difficulty with her speech. Her words didn’t match what she wanted to say, but the episode quickly passed. After a few online searches, two trips to an urgent care center and a visit to a neurologist, more than 10 days had passed since the headache had started.
The neurologist believed Stacy was experiencing migraines, but wanted to get an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and an MRA (magnetic resonance angiogram) of her head and neck to be safe. Less than 12 hours after having those tests, Stacy received a phone call from her neurologist who told her that she needed to go to the ER immediately because she was going to have a stroke.
The Stroke I Never Had
Now a year later, Stacy refers to the incident as “the stroke she never had.” That’s because a team at the ER that was able to stop a stroke from ever occurring. She later learned that the awful headaches were caused by a spontaneous dissection of Stacy’s left carotid artery—the one that supplies blood from the heart to the brain. The dissection, basically a tearing of the artery’s inner walls, caused a traffic jam that was blocking 90% of the blood flow to her brain. This blockage caused a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA), or mini-stroke, which is what caused Stacy to lose her ability to form coherent sentences just a few days earlier. TIAs cause a temporary blockage of blood flow to the brain and in most cases an indication that a major stroke is likely to occur.
“I never thought I could be at risk for a stroke. It was really hard for me to understand why this would happen,” shares Stacy. “I want women everywhere to know the warning signs of stroke and to understand that stroke can happen to anyone.”
Stacy Goes Red To Help Save Lives
While recovering from her mini stroke in early 2015, Stacy learned about the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women movement. Go Red For Women, nationally sponsored by Macy’s, inspires women to make lifestyle changes, mobilize communities and shape policies to save lives. In addition to finding a sense of belonging within the organization, she is now a survivor ambassador in Northern New Jersey, where she participates in Go Red For Women initiatives, such as National Wear Red Day, which is always the first Friday in February.
“National Wear Red Day is a major awareness campaign to let women know that heart disease and stroke are our biggest health threats,” says Stacy. “We can make a fashion statement on Friday, February 5 by wearing red to help raise awareness about the heart health of all women.”
Go Red With Us On February 25
Stacy, a resident of Belleville, is also the chair of Open Your Heart for the 7th Annual Northern New Jersey Go Red For Women Luncheon, which is set to take place on Thursday, February 25 at the Wilshire Grand Hotel in West Orange. The Open Your Heart program encourages attendees and supporters to make a financial contribution to the Go Red For Women campaign. These funds support this lifesaving movement, supporting cutting-edge research, community programs and professional education focused on cardiovascular health.
“The Go Red For Women Luncheon is a day of celebration,” says Stacy. “It’s a chance for heart and stroke survivors to come together to share their stories, raise awareness and help raise funds for cardiovascular research.”
When you get involved in supporting Go Red For Women by advocating, fundraising and sharing your story, more lives are saved. As a result, the American Heart Association says that in the U.S., about 285 fewer women die from heart disease and stroke each day, and cardiovascular disease death in women has decreased by more than 30% over the past 10 years. United, the organization is working to improve the health of all women.
For more information about heart disease and stroke in women, visit www.GoRedForWomen.org. To participate in National Wear Red Day or to learn more about the Northern NJ Go Red For Women Luncheon, call the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association New Jersey office at 609.208.0020 or visit NNJGoRed.Heart.org.