Sunday, April 29, 2018

Becoming a More Flexible and Creative Caregiver

Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp
a division of United Stroke Alliance
The following was originally posted late last year on the American Heart Association News web site at:

Stroke caregivers experience much the same as what a heart caregiver does. This article from AHA may give you stroke caregivers some useful suggestions for coping. 
Becoming a More Flexible and Creative Family Caregiver 
By Julia L. Mayer, Psy.D. & Barry J. Jacobs, Psy.D

Theresa goes to bed each night with a long list of things to do on her mind. Because her husband, Frank, has congestive heart failure and is always weak and tired, she knows that she will have to dress him, fix his meals and set up his pills, as well as shop, clean, and pay bills. She has developed routines for getting all this done as efficiently as possible. But her life nowadays seems to her to be nothing but these routines. Each hour is filled with burdensome tasks. Each day has a stultifying sameness. Each morning she wakes with a sense of dread about doing it all again.

Routines have an important place in our lives. They keep us on track with our responsibilities, requiring little thought and feeling, especially when we ourselves are tired. But the very repetitiveness of them also robs our lives of spontaneity and zest. In the worst-case scenario, we could wind up functioning robotically--not thinking or feeling, but only acting on automatic pilot. Too much adherence to too much routine also makes it harder for family caregivers to adjust to evolving medical, social or financial circumstances. Theresa would do well to be less organized and efficient or, at the least, to review and refresh her routines regularly. She may have to think and feel more about Frank’s changing needs but, in the process, she will be enlivened, too.

How can family caregivers get out of the rut of routines? Here are some suggestions to shake things up a bit and hopefully get a bit of replenishment as a result:

Do one thing differently each day. Change your seat at the breakfast table. You’ll have a different view. Drink a different hot beverage in the morning. Switch the order in which you do something.

Breakfast before bathing instead of bathing before breakfast. Making a small change tends to increase your awareness of all that’s going on around you.

Introduce something new to your routine. You might turn on the radio during breakfast. Or open a window. Or put flowers on the table. You could read out loud from the newspaper. Put down different place mats or a table cloth. Whatever you add can be a small thing that doesn’t take a lot of planning and executing.

Add humor to your day. Plan to watch a funny movie together, or a comedy routine. Read a chapter out loud from a humorous book. Find ways to laugh together. It helps!

Add something creative to your day. Look at art, listen to music or do a small art project together. Make Christmas ornaments. Start to knit a scarf. Bake cookies. Start an herb garden on your kitchen window sill. You can do it with your loved one if possible or he/she can be present with you while you do it. Having a sense of accomplishment helps brighten your mood.

Do something social, even briefly. Talk to a neighbor. Call a friend or relative. Offer support to someone else. Go to services at your religious institution. When you engage with others, you will feel replenished and less isolated.

Get a change of scenery. Take a walk or go for a drive and pay attention to what’s around you. Look at the trees, homes and people. When you take yourself out of your routine, you remember that there’s a whole world out there. You may literally experience a breath of fresh air.

Sometimes it only takes a small departure from the daily drudgery to give us a sense of freedom, possibilities, and hope. We can all use more of that.
Copyright is owned or held by the American Heart Association,Inc., and all rights are reserved. Permission is granted, at no cost and without need for further request, to link to, quote, excerpt or reprint from these stories in any medium as long as no text is altered and proper attribution is made to American Heart Association and American Heart Association News. See full terms of use.


Thursday, April 19, 2018

Spring 2018 News Letter

Editor note: Please read to the end of this news letter for a very exciting opportunity to win a POLARIS RANGER 500.

It’s been just over two years since the decision was made to create an umbrella organization that would cover our growing list of services to the stroke community. That organization was named United Stroke Alliance. The name doesn’t change anything about Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp, its name or logo. It doesn’t change Strike Out Stroke, its name, or logo. It now encompasses our newest addition, The Booster Box, and soon the expanding Youth Education on Stroke (YES) program. As we grew, the name change was necessary to be able to encompass all of our programs. Same services, same friendly staff, just a new name.


Encourage patient-runners to apply and inspire others through their grit and determination

Medtronic Global Champions is a program that recognizes athletes from around the world who have persevered through life-changing health conditions and have returned to active life with the help of medical technology. These remarkable individuals and their stories of grit, determination and triumph serve as an inspiration to others with life altering health conditions. Up to 20 individuals will be selected for the 2018 Global Champions team. Selected honorees receive a paid entry for themselves and a running partner to the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon or the Medtronic TC 10 Mile and a complimentary travel package that includes airfare, accommodations, and a host of VIP events.

Global Champion athletes must have a medical device, therapy, or procedure to treat heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, chronic pain, spinal or neurological disorders, obesity, or gastrointestinal and urological disorders. There is no restriction on the manufacturer of these devices, therapies, or procedures. Certain conditions may apply, and applicants must certify that they have discussed race participation with their physician.

If you know someone who lives an active life and is benefiting from a medical device, procedure, or therapy, encourage them to apply to be a Medtronic Global Champion at

Applications will be accepted through April 27, 2018.

See for more details.


New Stroke Camp Registration Software

We are happy to announce a new software program that will make registration easier as well as provide more detailed reports for our Stroke Camps. As with anything new, we expect there will be a kink or two for us to work on, it’s the nature of change. For those who prefer paper registration, we will gladly accommodate you, no worries.

Having trouble registering,? Just call Kerri Rae 309-688-5450.


Can-a-Thon 2018

For those Sponsors that are interested in hosting a Can-a-Thon at their stroke camps again this year, Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp will assist in coordinating that effort.

In 2017 we collected almost a ton of food that went to local food pantries, we hope to exceed that amount in 2018. Campers and volunteers will get details in their camp welcome packets.


Peoria, Illinois Stroke Survivors 
and Caregivers, 
this opportunity is for you!
Stronger Than a Stroke

  Partnering With

United Stroke Alliance has partnered with Anytime Fitness Peoria to help stroke survivors and caregivers connect and thrive through fitness. Effective March 20, 2018, Anytime Fitness, North Peoria, is offering classes for stroke survivors and caregivers at NO COST. This weekly opportunity from 12-Noon—1:00 pm will be available free going forward. Anytime Fitness will be offering this weekly coaching and support led by their professional coaches/trainers. Come check out the possibilities.

If you want to become a member, they are offering an affordable membership rate for local survivors and caregivers: For more information on membership call Matt at 309-966-4217.

 Month-to-Month $25 

 One-Time Enrollment Fee $25

 Annual Club Enhancement Fee $25 

Anytime Fitness Peoria is located at 1320 W. Commerce Dr., Peoria, IL 61615, Off North Knoxville, behind Kroger and CVS.


5/4—5/6 Camp Courageous; Monticello, IA | Sponsored by: Mercy Medical Center and University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics

5/18—5/20 Chapel Rock Camp; Prescott, AZ | Sponsored by: Dignity Health

6/1—6/3 Purdue University; West Lafayette, IN | Sponsored by: Franciscan Health Foundation 

6/8—6/10 Salt Fork Lodge & Resort; Lore City, OH | Sponsored by: OhioHealth

6/8—6/10 Fellowship Deaconry Ministries; Basking Ridge, NJ | Sponsored by: Overlook Foundation and Atlantic Health Systems

6/15—6/17 Crestfield Conference Center; Slippery Rock, PA | Sponsored by: UPMC Rehabilitation and Stroke Institutes 

6/22—6/24 Warren Conference Center; Ashland, MA | Sponsored by: Brigham & Women’s Hospital

7/5—7/8 Lutheran Outdoor Ministries Center (Family Camp); Oregon, IL | Sponsored by: Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp

7/13—7/15 Elmhurst College; Elmhurst, IL | Sponsored by: Amita Health Neurosciences Institute 

7/20—7/22 Lutheran Outdoor Ministries Center; Oregon, IL | Sponsored by: Mercyhealth, Illinois

Neurological Institute, OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center, Swedish American, VanMatre HealthSouth 

7/30—8/1 Chapel Rock Camp; Prescott, AZ | Sponsored by: Power of the Purse, Dignity Health, HealthSouth East Valley Rehabilitation Hospital

8/3—8/5 Pilgrim Park Camp; Princeton, IL | Sponsored by: Illinois Neurological Institute at OSF 

8/10—8/12 Highlands Retreat Center; Allenspark, CO | Sponsored by: Cheyenne Regional Medical Center

8/10—8/12 Michindoh Conference Center; Hillsdale, MI | Sponsored by: St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center**

8/24—8/26 Lutheran Outdoor Ministries Center; Oregon, IL | Sponsored by: Mercyhealth, IllinoisNeurological Institute, OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center, Swedish American, VanMatre HealthSouth 

8/24—8/26 Faholo Conference Center; Grass Lake, MI | Sponsored by: Henry Ford Health System, DeMaria 

8/24—8/26 Carol Joy Holling Center; Ashland, NE | Sponsored by: Lincoln Stroke Partnership, Bryan Health, Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals, St. Elizabeth

9/7—9/9 Lake Junaluska Conference Center; Lake Junaluska, NC | Sponsored by: Mission Health 

9/7—9/9 Green Lake Conference Center; Green Lake, WI | Sponsored by: UW Health

9/7—9/9 Pilgrim Park Camp; Princeton, IL | Sponsored by: Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp 

9/14—9/16 Airfield Conference Center; Wakefield, VA | Sponsored by: VCU Health

9/14—9/16 Broom Tree Retreat & Conference Center; Irene, SD | Sponsored by: Siouxland Stroke Support Network

9/21—9/23 Waycross Camp & Conference Center; Morgantown, IN | Sponsored by: Franciscan Health –Indianapolis/


9/28—9/30 Cohutta Springs Conference Center; Crandall, GA | Sponsored by: Erlanger Health System, HealthSouth, Siskin Hospital, Chiesi

10/5—10/7 Ceta Canyon Retreat Center; Happy, TX | Sponsored by: Medical Center Health System 

10/12—10/14 Rock Creek Resort; Red Lodge, MT | Sponsored by: St. Vincent Healthcare 
10/12—10/14 Pleasant Ridge Retreat Center; Marietta, SC | Sponsored by: Greenville Health System** 

10/12—10/14 Faholo Conference Center; Grass Lake, MI | Sponsored by: St. Joseph Mercy Oakland**

10/19—10/21 Rock Springs 4-H Center; Junction City, KS | Sponsored by: Kansas Family Stroke Foundation 

10/19—10/21 Echo Grove; Leonard, MI | Sponsored by: St. John’s Hospital & Medical Center 

10/26—10/28 YMCA of the Rockies; Estes Park, CO | Sponsored by: Good Samaritan Medical Center**

11/19—10/21 The Resort on Mt. Charleston; Mt. Charleston, NV | Sponsored by: St. Rose Dominican (Dignity Health)**

**Pending Sponsorship Confirmation


Hope to see you for our Tropical Island Getaway theme!

Sail Dates: March 09-March 14, 2019

Is it adventure you seek, or a restful retreat from life on land? 

Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas® is home to an array of innovations that give you whatever type of vacation you desire. But this isn't just a cruise ship. It's an adventure that sails way ahead of the curve. Surfing. Rock climbing wall. Ice-skating. Mini-golf. Outdoor Movies. 

Come seek all this and more on Independence of the Seas - your biggest vacation yet. Ship’s registry: The Bahamas.

5 night Caribbean cruise Independence of the Seas

Itinerary: Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. - Cruising - Labadee, Haiti, Falmouth, Jamaica - Cruising - Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Cruise Only Pricing Per Person based on Double occupancy: 

Interior $459.00      Ocean $549.00     Balcony    $649.00  
   Category 4V           Category 8N           Category 6D                                                plus taxes and fees $97.91                             

A special message from your travel agent: We have confirmed a limited number of accessible cabins and regular cabins in the above categories. Other category cabins are available.  Triple and Quad rooms can be booked subject to availability.  Contact me soon to reserve your space.  Deposit $250.00 per person at confirmation.     

For more Information/Reserve contact: 

JOHANNA McCARTY, Outside Sales Agent  
P.O. Box 625, Charleston, Il. 61920      
Phone: 217-532-2847(Available M-F 9AM-5PM) 

Arrow Travel is acting as a mere agent in accepting reservations for services not directly supplied by this agency.  Traveler assumes full responsibility for verifying documentation required for travel.  Arrow Travel and its employees are released from any claim arising from causes not within its control. 
SURVIVOR STORY: Featuring Bill


All his life, Bill has been active. He spent 31 years in the Air Force working in air freight and passenger service before becoming a pastor and working other jobs. With five children and eight grandchildren, there are always activities and chores — from raking the leaves to fixing bicycles to playing a game of basketball. 

There were no signs of illness — aside from a little fatigue — 
before he collapsed one morning with a massive stroke. “No warning whatsoever,” Bill says. “We had been talking, he got up to go to the bathroom and I heard things falling,” remembers Donna,

Bill’s wife of 47 years. “I found him on the floor, unconscious. He couldn’t talk and couldn’t move.” 


After Bill was stabilized at the hospital, his medical team set out to determine what caused the stroke. “One of the main etiologies for stroke is atrial fibrillation,” says Gary Boliek, M.D., a cardiologist at Baptist Health in Lexington, KY. “Patients are sometimes symptomatic in that they may feel their heart racing irregularly. But many times, atrial fibrillation is silent.” 

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is a common condition in which the upper chambers of the heart, or atria, beat very fast and irregularly so the heart can’t pump blood effectively to the rest of the body. AFib increases the risk of stroke more than 5 times,1 but often goes undetected since it can happen infrequently or without symptoms. 

A heart monitor could determine if Bill had a heart arrhythmia. There are many types of heart monitors and they vary by how long they can be used and how information is captured. One type of monitor captures heart activity for up to two days. Another can be worn for up to 30 days. 

A large study showed that for many patients who’ve experienced an unexplained stroke, known as a cryptogenic stroke, it could take more than 80 days for AFib to appear because the episodes happen infrequently, often without symptoms.2


Bill’s doctor decided on the Reveal LINQ Insertable Cardiac Monitoring (ICM) System, a heart monitor that watches for
problems 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for up to three years. 

A miniaturized monitor, it is one-third the size of a AAA battery and is implanted under the skin. Data from the device is automatically sent to the doctor. It took eight months before Bill experienced another episode, and the Reveal LINQ ICM detected atrial fibrillation. 

With this information, Bill’s doctor prescribed blood thinners to help prevent AFib from causing another stroke. “If we had not implanted the continuous monitor, we likely would not have detected his atrial fibrillation,” says Curtis Given, M.D., a neurosurgeon at Baptist Health. “Without the [monitor], we might have sent him home on aspirin, for example, and that would not have protected him from future stroke.”


Since his stroke, Bill has celebrated his 80th birthday and is back to helping Donna around the house with vacuuming, unloading the dishwasher, doing laundry, raking the yard and fixing household items. “He still does most everything he ever did, sometimes more,” says Donna. 
She also knows the importance of a rapid response. “Whether you know it’s a stroke or not, get help fast,” she says. 

Bill is happy to be back to his old self. “I just couldn’t imagine not doing the things I’ve always done, you know?” he says. “Now, I can pretty much do what I want to do or what I have to do.”

To learn more about cardiac monitoring for unexplained stroke, visit

This story reflects one person's experience. Not every person will receive the same results. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options.

1 Wolf PA, Abbott RD, Kannel WB. Atrial fibrillation as an independent risk factor for stroke. The Framingham Study. Stroke. August 1991;22


2 Sanna T, Diener HC. Passman RS. Et al. Cryptogenic Stroke and Underlying Atrial Fibrillation (CRYSTAL AF). N Engl J Med. June 26, 2014;370 (26):2478-2486.


Larry Schaer | CEO United Stroke Alliance

Over the last 10 years I have had the unique pleasure in meeting great stroke survivors, caregivers, family members, volunteers, and sponsors all over the country. In come cases, it is meeting with interested people who are attracted to the idea of doing a Stroke Camp, a Strike Out Stroke event, or our Youth Education on Stroke program. 

I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to the folks in North East Kansas. It began when one Topeka stroke survivor participated in the Lincoln, NE stroke camp and wanted to have one in Topeka, KS. I met with the folks from Kansas Rehabilitation Hospital and presented the idea. 

“After we first met, the thought of raising $25,000 seemed like trying to climb Mount Everest. I was inspired by the vision of changing the lives of stroke survivors and caregivers and being a part of their journey,” said Lisa Rundell, Director of Therapy Operations at Kansas Rehabilitation Hospital. Although everyone was excited about the idea, it seemed like a big challenge to find the funds to sponsor a camp. 

After some discussion the first step was to obtain funding through their first Trivia Night held in Topeka, KS. It provided a significant portion of the sponsorship fee for their first Stroke Camp. With additional local sponsors, the first North East Kansas Stroke Camp was conducted in October 2017. From corny skits to Saturday night karaoke, participants left with a feeling of renewal and inspiration to do it again. 

“Having a network of survivors, caregivers, and volunteers that have had a chance to be impacted by the camp firsthand has significantly increased the enthusiasm around continued growth”, according to Barry Muninger, Director of Marketing Operations. 

In February, this group organized their 2nd annual Trivia Night for additional stroke awareness programs. In addition, Youth Education on Stroke programs are being planned for the spring as well as an established website and foundation. In a matter of months, this group is changing the landscape of stroke awareness and support for stroke survivors, caregivers and family members. 

As a result of one stroke survivor wanting a local camp in Topeka, the community is now seeing value of people working together to improve the quality of life. 


Introduction | Getting to know your Board Of Directors

United Stroke Alliance would like to introduce one of our Board of Directors, Mark Belk. Our first contact with Mark was in 2014 when he and his wife, Shannon, a stroke survivor, participated in a Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp in Green Lake, WI. From that point our relationship has continuously grown from 
campers to a priceless friendship. 

The following year Mark, Shannon, and Joe Romenesko, another stroke survivor, organized and supported the first NE Wisconsin stroke camp. In 2016, Mark and Shannon moved to Omaha, NE where Shannon continues her rehabilitation at the new Madonna Rehabilitation facility.

In the spring of 2017, Mark was elected to the National Board of Directors of United Stroke Alliance. Not only does Mark bring the perspective of a caregiver of a stroke survivor, he has a rich background in information technology, sales, marketing, and general management. His proven leadership and strategic thinking has been demonstrated through his career in working with major companies across the country.

His 25+ year career path has included Vice President- IT for Oshkosh Corporation, Vice President/Global Enterprise Technology and Project Management for Zimmer, Inc, Vice President/Global Information Services for Avnet, Inc., Vice President and
Business Information Officer for Armour Eckrich Meats, Inc; Vice President/Enterprise Center of Expertise for ConAgra Foods,
Inc., as well as other corporations. Mark holds a BS degree in Business (Marketing) and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration (MBA) from Radford University in Radford, Virginia.

United Stroke Alliance is privileged to have Mark’s business expertise and personal experience as a caregiver on the Board of Directors. We look forward to working with Mark in developing and growing United Stroke Alliance into a long term global organization providing community stroke awareness and supporting stroke survivors, caregivers, and their families.



Benefitting United Stroke Alliance



Color may vary
Tickets: $100 each

Drawing to be held when the sale of 200 tickets is complete. Do not have to be present to win.

Raffle License # R-57-18 Peoria County Illinois
To purchase your ticket, please call 309-688-5450


Sunday, April 15, 2018

Survivor’s Best Friend

Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp
a division of United Stroke Alliance
The following was originally posted in August of last year on the Stroke Network Newsletter at:
By Barb Polan
Anxiety and an ESA

Anxiety is a common diagnosis after a person has a stroke, with approximately one-third of survivors experiencing some form of it. Anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), specific phobia, social anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, panic disorder, and selective mutism.

According to a study done in Sweden by T.B. Cumming, C. Blomstrand, I. Skoog, and T. Linden, published in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, February 2016, “Those in the stroke group were significantly more likely than those in the comparison group to have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) (27% versus 8%).” And, “Multivariate regression indicated that being in the stroke group, female sex, and having depression were all significant independent associates of having an anxiety disorder.”

Another study, this one by S.L Crichton, B.D. Cray, C. McKevit, A.G. Rudd and C.D. Wolfe, and published in The Journal of Neurology and Neurosurgery Psychiatry, October 2016, found that anxiety persisted even in long-term survivors, concluding that “at 15 years, the prevalence of anxiety [was] 34.9%.”

With those odds of experiencing anxiety, especially if you are a woman and/or experience depression, you have an approximately one-in-three chance of benefitting from an emotional support animal (ESA).

My own ESA (a 25-pound dog named Turbo) has an instinctive response when I feel anxiety: he himself becomes anxious. It all makes sense – when he’s anxious, he tries to self-comfort: by snuggling on my lap and licking, licking, licking. His favorite targets are my ears and my affected hand.

My husband jokes, “Yes, Turbo’s a comfort dog – he needs a lot of comfort.”

But it works – I comfort him, and in the process, calm myself. It helps that the area behind my ears is ticklish and I immediately smile, plus hugging him and stroking his hair is soothing. As he relaxes, I relax, my anxiety receding back to behind my breastbone instead of rising to block my airways.
Barbara survived an ischemic stroke in November 2009, at 52 years old, caused by a dissection of her right carotid artery, which was probably caused by the physical strain of competitive rowing. The stroke resulted in left hemiparesis and the eventual loss of her job managing and editing a community newspaper. As a result, her physical therapy has focused on regaining the ability to row, something that gets closer every rowing season; for emotional and cognitive recovery, she writes a stroke-related blog and has published a memoir.
Copyright @August 2017
The Stroke Network, Inc.
P.O. Box 492 Abingdon, Maryland 21009
All rights reserved.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Turn to the people who've been there

Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp

a division of United Stroke Alliance

by Support Network

Stroke recovery may feel like a lonely process. But the truth is, you're not alone. There are others going through many of the things you are, and they're ready to connect with you right now on our Support Network.

The Support Network is an online social community of survivors and family caregivers - plus experts from the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association. It's a place for sharing experiences, answers, expertise, emotional support and more.

As a Support Network member, you'll exchange milestones, setbacks, triumphs and insights. Find tips to solve your challenges. Post questions for our healthcare professionals to answer. Learn about managing your condition, making progress in your recovery, and feeding your spirit along the way. 

You're also invited to participate in forums, including our newest, MyAFibExperience®. It's a place to get the patient's perspective on atrial fibrillation and find out more about the link between AFib and stroke.

Now's the time to meet your new community. Join the Support Network free. Just click and enroll.
Editor Note: United Stroke Alliance and it's Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp division are not affiliated with American Heart Association, American, Stroke Association or Support Network. It is my personal choice to include today's reference to Support Network. I feel many of our readers could benefit from joining the Stroke Network site.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Using hip-hop to teach kids about stroke

Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp

a division of United Stroke Alliance
Editor's Note:
What many don't know is that United Stroke Alliance, of which we are a division, has another division that focuses on teaching 5th grade students how to recognize the symptoms of a stroke and what to do when one is detected. 

This program has been implemented for many years here in the Peoria, Illinois area, and coincides with our Strike-Out-Stroke (another division of United Stroke Alliance) event at a Peoria Chiefs minor league baseball game at their Dozer ball park here in Peoria in the month of June. As part of this awareness program we hold a stroke awareness poster competition among the 5th graders and people from our organization are selected as judges to determine a 1st place winner from all of the submitted posters. 

And get this...As an award for designing the best poster the winner and one of their parents is flown onto the ballfield in the local hospital's emergency Life Flight helicopter and given the honor of throwing out the first pitch for that day's game. 

It pleases me greatly to see that New York City is now doing something similar at their schools. Their approach is unique and apparently with a lot of success.
The following is from the American Heart Association News Letter:

Teaching school kids the symptoms of stroke and how to react quickly to them is an effective way to potentially save lives and prevent disabilities, according to a new study done in tandem with the educational program Hip Hop Stroke.

Published Thursday in Stroke, the study included 3,070 minority New York City children in fourth, fifth and sixth grade who took part in Hip Hop Stroke, a three-hour multimedia intervention which teaches kids about stroke and encourages them to share their knowledge with parents and other adults.

Three months after the program ended, 24 percent of the kids were still “optimally prepared” to recognize stroke symptoms and quickly call 911.

“If we can get fourth-graders to learn the symptoms and act on them, then we can get anybody to do the same thing,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Olajide Williams, a researcher and chief of staff of neurology at Columbia University. Williams is also founder and president of Hip Hop Public Health, a nonprofit that uses hip-hop to call attention to stroke and other health issues.

“It’s a very important study with impressive results,” said Dr. Bruce Ovbiagele, chairman of neurology at the Medical University of South Carolina. Ovbiagele, who was not involved in the study, said “it’s pointing us in the right direction of what we should be doing to affect change and [encourage] the general public to call 911 and get patients to the hospital on time.”

Stroke is the No. 5 cause of death in the U.S., killing nearly 130,000 people a year. It’s also a leading cause of long-term disability and the leading preventable cause of disability.

Most strokes in the U.S. are ischemic, in which a blocked blood vessel cuts off blood flow to the brain. If patients get to the hospital within three to four-and-a-half hours, most of them can receive a clot-dissolving drug that may prevent death and improve the chances of recovering.

The Hip Hop Stroke program seeks to teach minority middle school students stroke symptoms such as face drooping, arm weakness and speech difficulty. The program also teaches the importance of calling 911 in order to get parents, grandparents or other adults to the hospital quickly.

During three separate one-hour sessions, the study participants watched animated cartoons and hip-hop music videos and played video games and read comic books – all related to stroke education.

Immediately after the program, 57 percent had perfect scores in a stroke knowledge/preparedness test, compared to only 1 percent in the group that didn’t go through the program. Three months later, one-quarter of the program group retained “optimal preparedness.” Four children wound up using the skills they learned in Hip Hop Stroke to call 911 for real-life stroke symptoms.

The study showed parents of kids who went through the program also became better prepared to recognize stroke symptoms, increasing from 3 percent before the program to 20 percent immediately after.

Hip Hop Stroke focused on economically disadvantaged minorities, especially African-Americans. According to the American Stroke Association, African-Americans are more impacted by stroke than any other racial group in the United States.

“The fact that this study targeted a group that is high-risk, using children, was extremely novel,” said Ovbiagele. “African-Americans disproportionately suffer the burden of stroke.”

Williams said Hip Hop Stroke is a conscious effort to think outside the box when it comes to stroke education in the African-American community and beyond.

“We need to be more creative. We need innovative interventions that leverage all age groups,” Williams said. “Most Americans get to the hospital too late for treatments that can potentially save you or your loved one from a life of disability. We have medications that can mitigate these effects, and yet we’re only treating 7 percent of these patients. That’s a devastating statistic.”

Hip Hop Stroke is available for use by schools and other groups.

“Hip Hop Stroke is a fully online program that can be used by any school or anyone that wants to strengthen stroke awareness in their community,” Williams said. “We need to empower the public to recognize the urgency of these symptoms, to recognize the clock is ticking and call 911.”

If you have questions or comments about this story, please email

Copyright is owned or held by the American Heart Association,Inc., and all rights are reserved. Permission is granted, at no cost and without need for further request, to link to, quote, excerpt or reprint from these stories in any medium as long as no text is altered and proper attribution is made to American Heart Association and American Heart Association News. See full terms of use.