(StatePoint) Lead scorer of the University of Pittsburgh women’s basketball team, Latia Howard was being recruited by the WNBA and at the top of her game. But that all changed after she suffered a stroke at just 21 years old.
Early one morning, Howard began experiencing weakness in her arm and leg. While she decided to skip practice that day, she didn’t think too much of it. When her roommate told her trainer why Howard wasn’t at practice and what she was experiencing, he called her and noticed she didn’t sound right on the phone. He went straight to her apartment, and after realizing something was very wrong, he immediately called 911 and she was rushed to the emergency room.
According to the American Stroke Association, African Americans have a higher prevalence of stroke and the highest death rate from stroke than any other racial group. Among stroke survivors, African Americans are more likely to be disabled and have difficulties doing daily activities.
A star athlete before her life-changing stroke, not only was Howard unable to play basketball afterward, she had to relearn how to walk and talk and went through extensive physical therapy, falling into a depression.
The stroke forced Howard to re-imagine her goal of being a professional basketball player. She shifted her dream of playing in the WNBA to coaching young, up-and-coming basketball players.
“I am grateful I am here and can share my story,” says Howard, who, now 43, is an educator and basketball coach. “I encourage my team to always give 100% because at one time in my life, I couldn’t give anything.”
A testament to the fact that stroke can happen to anyone, of any age, at any time, Howard encourages everyone to know their body, so they can recognize when something feels different or wrong. “When it comes to stroke, every moment counts,” she says. “A person could lose everything to stroke, so it’s important to call 911 the moment something seems off.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that almost half of African Americans have at least one risk factor for stroke, including manageable conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes, as well as genetic conditions like sickle cell disease. That is why it’s important for everyone to be aware of their risk factors and learn the signs to watch.
According to experts, immediate medical attention is vital when it comes to stroke and relies on everyone learning and being able to recognize the BE FAST signs and symptoms of a stroke in themselves and others and calling 911 immediately. BE FAST stands for Balance, Eyes, Face, Arm, Speech, Time and refers to these signs of stroke:
• Balance: Sudden loss of balance
• Eyes: Loss of vision in one or both eyes
• Face: Face looks uneven or droopy
• Arm: Arm or leg is weak or hanging down
• Speech: Slurred speech, trouble speaking or seems confused
• Time: Immediately call 911
For more information and resources, visit StrokeAwareness.com, developed by Genentech Inc, a member of the Roche Group.
“BE FAST” was developed by Intermountain Healthcare, as an adaptation of the FAST model implemented by the American Stroke Association. Reproduced with permission from Intermountain Healthcare. © 2011 Intermountain Healthcare. All rights reserved.