Stroke survivor tells her story to raise awareness about American Stroke Month

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) – More than 6,000 people here in North Carolina died from a stroke in 2022, and this month is known as American Stroke Month to encourage people to advocate for their health.

“Get out of the house, go find life; life is good,” said stroke survivor Gina Cappel.

That is the message that Cappel told herself in 2016 when she had two aneurysms that led to a stroke. But now that is also the message the Havelock woman wants to share with others.

”My life has changed a lot because I lost pretty much everything,” said Cappel. I had to learn everything again: walking, talking.”

Now, she has a mission of helping others while raising awareness about stroke dangers, which may affect more people than you realize.

“We’re actually in the buckle of the stroke belt; it is a part of the region in the southeastern part of the United States, where the incident and death rates from stroke are very, very high,” said ECU Health Stroke Medical Director Shailesh Male.

With ECU Health’s hospital seeing about 12,000 to 14,000 strokes a year, there is a simple but important message to remember about the symptoms of a stroke.

“Be fast, starting off with a balance problem. E is for eye problems; double vision is a sign of a stroke. F is for face weakness if your face is droopy or you’re having trouble speaking. A is for arm, leg weakness and numbness. S is for speech if you’re having slurred speech, and T is for time. Time is of essence,” said Male.

Now, Gina can walk, drive, and live life to the fullest again, and she hopes others can do the same.

Male also noted that about 80% of strokes are preventable, with some good dietary habits, exercise and controllable blood pressure and blood sugar.

He also noted that certain strokes can be treated, but there is a short time frame for that treatment to occur, which is another reason he feels community awareness is so important in order for people to get the help they need.