Ending Strokes Through Stories

American Stroke Month

Throughout the month of May, staff at St. John’s shared personal stories of how strokes have impacted their lives and what steps they are taking to ensure a healthy heart and lifestyle moving forward.

Tanya Wendt, therapeutic recreation specialist, strives to show her young son how to be healthy. She believes in three simple tasks for her own heart health – exercise, diet, and stress management. “Being a mom without her own mother due to cancer shows me that I need to follow the signs of healthy eating and be aware that the heart is your ‘battery’ so to speak. You should feed your body with the right fuel to keep it going.”

Karen Fantigrossi, medical services manager, shares a personal story of her father. “He smoked three packs of Camel cigarettes a day. He drank coffee like it was water and had poor eating habits; he never lived to educate himself.” Karen’s father passed away from a massive stroke at 60 years old. As a result of this, Karen is nearing 65 and going strong due to her healthy eating habits and effort to work out six days a week.

Eileen Brooks, talent acquisition specialist, understood the benefits of eating balanced meals and exercising regularly at a young age. When her mother suddenly suffered a massive stroke caused by AFib, she was shocked. “Since Mom’s death, my siblings and I frequently share what we are doing for ourselves and spouses to minimize this risk factor – from stress management to healthful eating habits to getting regular exercise at the top of the list.”

Al Padeletti, director of information services, initially ignored the chest pressure he had been experiencing, but after talking with his cardiologist he agreed to an angiogram test. Results showed many blockages leading to the need for a full bypass. “We are very lucky to live in an area with excellent health care options so close at hand. If you are at all even slightly suspicious, don’t be stubborn – see your doctor. Save your gambling for lottery tickets and the casino.”

Mary Bansbach, LPN, shares her story of her 5-year-old son, Trevor, who has Cerebral Palsy due to two strokes, one in utero and one shortly after birth. “Stroke isn’t just for the elderly or the ‘at risk population’ … it can happen at any age.”

Jen DiSalvo, assistant director of nursing, knows a thing or two about living a healthy lifestyle. After losing a close friend to a CVA (Cerebrovascular accident), Jen decided to change her way of living for herself and most importantly, for her children. “I did not want my children to grow up and not have a mother. I weighed 300 pounds at the time, smoked a pack of cigarettes a day, and spent my weekends drinking beer.” With the help of a New Year’s resolution, Jen quit smoking, acquired a passion for running, and lost 150 pounds.

The meaning of American Stroke Month really hits home for Kelly Batz, Employee Health and Wellness Manager. Kelly lost both her mother and stepfather at the young age of 63. After her mother, Rose, suffered from a stroke, she went on to live another 15 years after keeping a keen eye on her weight, diet, and medications. Kelly’s stepfather, John, experienced numerous heart attacks leading to a 5th heart surgery, which is when he lost his will to survive. “The cigarettes that he couldn’t give up ultimately led to his death. John never met some of his grandchildren because of cigarettes.”

Thank you to all staff who shared their stories. As Kelly says, “take the time to educate yourself and your family about what you can do to improve your chances for longevity; Life offers so much.” 

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