While feeding her cats one day, Adrienne Statfeld’s left hand suddenly went numb and the cats’ water bowl came crashing to the floor.
She then lost feeling in her left leg and fell to the ground. Ms. Statfeld, then 46, immediately knew what was wrong — she was having a stroke.
She crawled down the stairs, put extra food in her cats’ bowl and made three phone calls — one to her mother asking her to come take care of her pets, one to her job informing them she was having a stroke and wouldn’t be able to make it in that day, and another to a taxi asking to bring her to the emergency room at Norwalk Hospital in Connecticut.
“I was diagnosed with a stroke immediately,” said Ms. Statfeld, of Riverhead. “I was in the hospital for a month and then another full month was rehab, which included physical and occupational therapy and speech therapy.”
Although she received months of therapy after her February 2011 stroke, Ms. Statfeld still has difficulty doing daily tasks. She currently walks with a cane, and considers her daily .25-mile walk a heavy workout.
Because of this, when she felt ready to return to her job as an animal shelter director in Connecticut she was fired instead. She was then offered a different job as operations director at Safe Haven No-Kill Animal Sanctuary in Georgetown, Del., but soon learned she was physically unable to perform the necessary tasks.
“It was probably a blessing in disguise, but it was emotionally devastating,” Ms. Statfeld said. “That job was my whole life, I loved what I did. Animals are my whole life. At the time of my stroke I had eight cats and a dog and they were my motivation to get out of the hospital and return home to a normal life.”
Now, six-and-a-half years later Ms. Statfeld is preparing to walk in the National Stroke Association’s Comeback Trail 5K. Scheduled for Oct. 21 at Jones Beach, it is open to participants of all abilities and stroke survivors at various stages of recovery.
“I’m excited to do the 5K,” Ms. Statfeld said. “I’ve had so much loss in my life, now I have something exciting and a goal to work toward.”
She learned of the run/walk through the NSA’s e-magazine Stroke Smart, which offers health tips pertaining to strokes. Ms. Statfeld went back and forth in her mind about whether she should participate, and after telling a friend about the run, the friend said if Ms. Statfeld participated she would too.
Ms. Statfeld registered that day.
She said she’s looking forward to meeting other survivors, and although she doesn’t expect to be able to complete the entire 5.1 miles she considers participating a success no matter how far she ends up walking.
“Seeing the community of survivors will be very exciting,” Ms. Statfeld said. “A lot of folks don’t know how common strokes are. There are six to seven million survivors living in the United States alone.”
Ms. Statfeld’s stroke wasn’t preventable, as she has a condition that causes clots to form and one eventually broke away from one of her heart valves and traveled to her brain. Others can prevent having a stroke by watching their diet and cholesterol levels.
The warning signs are important to be aware of. The acronym FAST stands for facial drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulties and time to call emergency services and is a good way to remember stroke symptoms and what to do.
“It’s one of the leading diseases that causes disability in this country so it’s important we know about it,” she said. “Not to be negative, but it cut me down in the prime of my life. That’s why this 5K, which might seem like a small thing to some, but for me is very exciting and something I hope I can accomplish.”
Photo caption: Adrienne Statfeld of Riverhead and her mother, Paula Statfeld, whom she calls her biggest supporter. (Credit: courtesy photo)