Survivor Stories: Gina Roberts

Gina A. Roberts was a 51-year-old middle school teacher in Baltimore, MD when she had her stroke, and her story demonstrates the importance of recognizing warning signs and acting quickly, sometimes even insisting someone else get immediate care.

Looking back, Gina started seeing symptoms the day before her stroke, when she was dropping shopping bags, and then she overslept that morning. She went to her hairdressers after school and started to drop things again, staggered on her way to the ladies room, and when she went to leave, her mouth seemed to be twisting and her speech started to slur. She ran over a bolt in the parking lot and her tire completely flattened, forcing her to go back in to the hair salon and call her brother. Her doctor later told her that was the best thing that could have happened, because had she driven home and gone to bed she may not be alive today.

A friend at the salon offered to take her home, and eventually convinced Gina to let her drive her to an after-hours clinic. By this time, Gina could not even unbuckle her seatbelt or speak. The health professionals there discovered her blood pressure was dangerously high, 267/140, and called an ambulance to take her to the nearest hospital. It was too late to give her clot-busting drugs.

Today, Gina jokes that she lived to see President Obama take office. She had been telling her students for years he would be President one day. She experienced a facial droop for several months, her short-term memory is limited, and she has residual weakness on the left side. She has retired early from teaching. But Gina is using her experiences, her gifts in teaching, and her extroverted personality, to educate anyone who will listen about preventing and recognizing stroke.

Gina was recognized as last year’s Stroke Survivor of the year for her work as a Baltimore Power To End Stroke Ambassador. She has used her relationships at Baltimore-city schools, her AKA sorority chapter, her church, her family’s annual cook-out and her high-school reunion to share her story and raise awareness. She has a family history of congestive heart failure and stroke, but she is working on the risk factors she can control… her weight, her activity level, and controlling her high blood pressure. She has a lot of plans for broadening her reach even further, and is using her gifts and experience to save lives. Her main message, “Call 9-1-1 immediately if you experience signs that suggest a stroke. Better safe than sorry!”

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