There is one acronym that explains why Rosalind Passley is still here today.
And that is FAST: Facial drooping; Arm weakness, Speech difficulties and Time — the American Heart Association’s warning signs of a stroke and the swiftness needed to take action. Her husband noticed these symptoms and called 911 about two years ago, which got her the emergency response needed to save her life.
Passley, of Rome, was able to share her story of survival and battle against heart disease and stroke during the Go Red Mohawk Valley Digital Experience, a seminar and fund-raiser for the AHA held online via Zoom Wednesday.
While women work, care for families, and put time and effort into making their communities a better place to live, the AHA was reminding women to ask themselves at what cost are all those things to their heart health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease remains the number-one cause of death for women of all races, while stroke is No. 4.
Hosted by Light 98.7 DJ Kaylin Broadwell, the broadcast event featured mindfulness advice and some meditation by Sherri Spina, mindfulness consultant, with keynote speaker Kristy Mandour, reminding women to take the “self” mindset out of self care and make it “preventative care” when it comes to caring for yourself. There was an emphasis on the anxiety, stress and different emotions brought on during the coronavirus pandemic, and the need for women — the known caregivers — to take the necessary time to reduce stress and do things to keep healthy while managing anything else life throws their way.
“We all think we have to be Wonder Woman,” Mandour said. “I think women need to shift away from the mindset of ‘I should.’ I’d like to see us set ourselves up to be in a position of strength, rather than feeling we aren’t doing enough.”
Before introducing Passley for her videotaped message, Broadwell reviewed the different symptoms women have, compared to men, when suffering a heart attack. She also shared how the knowledge of FAST can give everyone the power in helping to save someone’s life who is suffering from a stroke. If someone experiences such symptoms, — face drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulties — they should not ignore the signs and contact 911.
There are other signs of stroke too, like a headache or dizziness, which is what Passley said she experienced two years ago. She was 53 at the time.
“My stroke occurred in 2019 and actually prior to it, I had hypertension, high blood pressure...and it had been monitored, but it wasn’t being well kept under the threshold,” recalled Passley. “I had a headache that I couldn’t get rid of, no matter what I did, and I went to my doctor several times. And at one point it just felt like I wasn’t being heard.”
Passley said she began to experience blurred vision along with the headaches, and the turning point was when she was home one day and suffered “what felt like a blackout phase.” She had gone to visit her doctor four times in one week.
“And I felt like, ‘Are you listening to me as a woman?,’” said Passley. “I know my body better than anyone else. And I felt that what I needed, he wasn’t giving me.”
It was at one point that Passley got up to go to the bathroom and as she was walking, it seemed like “miles away” from her bedroom. When she informed her husband that she didn’t feel she’d be able to get out of the bathroom on her own, he rushed in and “This acronym FAST saved my life, which my husband knew.”
While her military husband remained calm in the situation, Passley said he knew to ask her about her arms and she was unable to stretch them. She said he also asked for her birth date, but she couldn’t answer him.
“In three days, I hit three strokes. The doctors are like, ‘Okay, we’ve got to get on this,’” she said. “They said, ‘You’re very young,’ but they just kept talking about my lifestyle. I was busy taking care of others.”
With some healthier habits, like regular walks with her 81-year-old mom and friends, and cooking and eating lighter, and after having undergone sessions with a speech pathologist, Passley said she’s well on the road of recovery.
“...I’m feeling better and better because this (walking in a straight line) was something I couldn’t do in the beginning,” said Passley of her walks. “...Your life is precious. It can be taken away in a moment. It’s not always going to be good. It’s not always going to be bad, but your good moments will outweigh the bad. So now we love life, live life, take it one day at a time, no rush.”
To all the other women out there, Passley advised them to take care of themselves, exercise regularly, eat healthy and be sure to go visit the doctor regularly.
“I Go Red for all my African American sisters who may not know the signs and symptoms of a stroke,” Passley said.
Broadwell and AHA officials ended the program by highlighting the new Teen of Impact campaign. Since April 12, three Mohawk Valley teens have been working to raise awareness in the community about heart disease, and have raised money to support the American Heart Association’s mission. They are part of the inaugural Teen of Impact campaign across upstate New York, sponsored in the Mohawk Valley by First Source Credit Union, and one teen will win a $1,000 scholarship.