BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Attorney Alyson McCord works with the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), spending the last decade advocating for kids. However, after 12 years of struggling to control her high blood pressure, a stroke nearly stripped away her ability to advocate even for herself.
"It was excruciating. I couldn't write; I couldn't even talk," said McCord. "I couldn't do anything on my right side and I was right handed. I couldn't communicate with people and tell people what I was trying to say. It was like I was trapped inside of my body."
In January of 2016, McCord suffered a series of transient ischemic attacks, or mini-strokes. Eight months later, she suffered a major stroke while visiting a friend in New Orleans. McCord says she remembers feeling weak and passing out. When she woke up, she was unable to tell the doctor her phone number.
"It was gibberish," said McCord.
More than a year later, McCord's body has healed, but the stroke left her with a speech impediment. Her words come slowly, although her cognitive function is fine. She's had to change how she works, relying more on writing for communication.
"I am an attorney and I can't go into the court room because I think most people don't find me intelligent. They tend to finish my sentences and that's what I want to do," said McCord.
McCord is now sharing her story with the nation. She's among several patients featured in a national public service announcement campaign by the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American Stroke Association, along with the American Medical Association. McCord says she was embarrassed at first, but decided it was important for people to see firsthand the effects of a stroke.
"People had to know what strokes are, what the signs are, what they have to do to get the numbers lowered. They had to know that," said McCord.
She hopes that by sharing how dangerous high blood pressure and increased stroke risks can be, others will become their own health advocate.
According to the AHA, and estimated 103 million adults suffer from high blood pressure, but only about half have their condition under control. If left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to stroke or heart attack.
For more information on checking your numbers go to loweryourHBP.org.