In 2011 at the age of 33, McNICHOLS associate Kristen Powers experienced a stroke. She was young and healthy—even in the process of training for a half Ironman triathlon. Unfortunately, as many know, heart disease and stroke affect people of all ages and lifestyles.
During her training, Kristen was involved in a biking accident. She went to a nearby hospital with her husband, Jason, where they stitched up a cut on her forehead and told her she was good to go home. But as she was leaving the parking lot, she realized that wasn't the case.
While getting into her car, Kristen suddenly dropped her phone and was unable to pick it up. As she attempted to explain to Jason, her speech came out as incoherent gibberish. When he noticed the right side of her face drooping, he rushed her back into the hospital. Shortly thereafter, doctors confirmed she was suffering a stroke.
The medical team immediately got to work to remove a small clot that was blocking blood flow to her brain. After the successful completion of surgery, Kristen's fight was just beginning. The stroke had impacted her ability to walk, talk, and process information. A long road to recovery was ahead.
As part of her recovery, Kristen had to re-learn how to tie her shoes, brush her hair, and perform other seemingly routine tasks. The process wasn't easy, but Kristen refused to give up. With the help of doctors, family, and friends, she was able to regain the majority of her cognitive ability and speech patterns within a year.
When she was able to return to work at McNICHOLS, Kristen found herself with a heightened sense of passion and a new lease on life. Her experience inspired her to pursue the fight against heart disease and stroke—educating those around her about warning signs and how to live a healthier lifestyle.
Kristen explains, "Heart disease and stroke are topics that touch just about everyone in some way, myself included. But with a few small changes to our lifestyle, we can prevent both of these health issues from becoming life-altering. That is reason enough for me to become an advocate for better health."
Although supporting heart health has been a goal of McNICHOLS for many years, it was through Kristen's advocacy that the company decided to take its involvement to the next level.
Associates at McNICHOLS now have the opportunity to take part in informative heart health sessions throughout the year. These range from CPR training to the American Heart Association's Life's Simple Seven seminar, where attendees learn about keys to maintaining a healthy heart.
These informative sessions and programs have also allowed McNICHOLS to receive awards from the American Heart Association’s Workplace Health Achievement Index. Since 2007, the company has scored at the Bronze level in this index that measures the overall health of our associates and workplace.
In addition to educating associates, McNICHOLS also strives to educate our community by taking part in awareness campaigns. For example, each February, the company joins the Go Red for Women movement to end heart disease and stroke.
Another one of the company's significant commitments to healthy initiatives is through participation in the Heart Walk. The annual walk, put on by the American Heart Association, occurs in several cities across the nation. For many years, McNICHOLS associates have taken part in the Tampa Bay Heart Walk. In 2012, the year following Kristen’s stroke, the company decided to become a sponsor of the event. At this year's Heart Walk on November 9, associates joined together to raise funds for life-saving research.
Within three months of beginning therapy after her stroke, Kristen completed a 5k run. Her journey is a testament to perseverance, hope, and the power of community support.
"I am grateful for the medical staff that saved my life, the encouragement of family and friends through the recovery process, and McNICHOLS for standing by my side through it all! Without that support system, I don't know where I would be today," she says.
Thanks to Kristen, we are inspired to continue advocating for heart health in our company and our communities. If there's one thing that Kristen and her recovery has taught us, it's that we can go much further when we work (and walk) together!