Every 40 seconds someone has a stroke and every 4 minutes someone will dies as a result. The month of May marks stroke awareness month and one local couple is using their experience to make a difference in the lives of others.
Prevention, awareness, and recovery. That is the mission of The United Stroke Alliance, an organization known across the country for their retreats and education initiatives, but it was born in Peoria, IL after a couple’s life was changed forever one Sunday afternoon.
In 2001 Marylee and John Nunley were going about their daily lives when John suddenly collapsed.
“I said are you OK and he started talking gibberish, nothing made sense and I said I think you’ve had a stroke and I called 911.” said Marylee Nunley, one of the founders and director of United Stroke Alliance.
The signs of a stroke of a stroke can be remembered in the acronym BE FASTER.
B, for sudden loss of balance, E for sudden blurry or loss of vision, F for numbness or one sided drooping in the face, A for arm weakness, S for slurred or mumbling speech, T for time, call 911 right now, and ER for emergency response, get to the ER by ambulance because they know what to do.
Like many who suffer from strokes, for a time John lost function of his right leg and arm but after many years of therapy both came back. He continues to work on his speech, suffering from aphasia.
“I couldn’t talk at all but as you can see I’m a little better all the time.” said John Nunley, the stroke survivor
“He’ll say it’s like it’s going round and around and around and it can’t find the right file was how he describes the language because it’s not about intelligence or not knowing the word, it’s about retrieving the word.” said Marylee
While caring for her husband, Marylee said she had to find a new normal.
“It’s a long journey for the caregiver and one of the thing you have to do is to adapt to this new person because the husband I have now is not the husband that I married.” Marylee said
Despite the hardships, she wanted to make a difference, so in 2004 the Retreat and Refresh Stroke Camp was born.
“You learn things you’ll never learn at a doctors office, you learn things that are so powerful and so helpful and encouraging for each other.” said Marylee
Now the non-profit United Stroke Alliance is thriving. Overseeing more than 35 programs in over 24 states.
“Helping the other people that we go to these camps with you know, I think that’s one of the best things we do.” said John
“I see transformations, I see an energy and a joy come back into faces.” said Marylee
Spreading a message of hope for survivors and their families everywhere.
As John and many other survivors say, “Don’t give up.”
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