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AUDIO HERSTORY: Former Miss New Jersey Cynthia Stephans Shares Her Stroke

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Hi, I am Cynthia Stevens from up in New Jersey, of Cherry Hill, N.J. On May 3, never forget, I had a major stroke, after a year of going back and forth to doctor’s hospital to no avail.

Cynthia I was never diagnosed with the heart disease or stroke. I knew in my heart, something majorly wrong with me. Confused by the pregnancy and confused by the doctor’s comment to me, I cannot believe what happened on May 3. Here I was, watching my children, sending them off to school and all of a sudden, I am on the back bathroom, I fall down. Knowing that that’s normal to me, my 10-year-old daughter Chelsea, she decided to come to my aid and ask me, “Do you want me to call ‘911’?” She thought I would have my baby, and I said, “No, I am fine”, and then I called to my living room because I was unable to use my right and left, my right side I was unable to walk so I called and being very vague, pregnant, I was 180 lbs. probably at six months pregnant. I got in the living room and I laid down there and all of a sudden she throws me a towel and she said, “Mommy, you have all this stuff off your face”, and I am thinking what’s on my face, she said, “It’s lot of like its lava”, so I wiped it and it kept on running like a water hose. So she said, “Mommy, are you joking? What’s going on?” So she said, “I am going to call ‘911’.” At this point I had ability to speak. I couldn’t even move my head. I was completely paralyzed, paralyzed partially from fear … She finally called ‘911’ and thank God for me, they were up the street, police and all, at the Dunkin Donuts. How ironic was that, at a Dunkin Donuts? It took them three minutes to get to my house and they still didn’t diagnose me as in the scope. They thought I had low sugar and they looked fine to treat me for low sugar and they would give me a glucose tablet and I knew then when it was time to put something in my mouth. It would fall out and I could not move my tongue or my mouth,. I could not answer any questions. If they said something, “If you’re hot, say yes”, and I was saying ‘no’. When I would answer a question ‘yes’ or ‘no’, whether I was hot, I would say ‘no’. Well I had emotions in my head. No, because I am pregnant and having a stroke and I was confused and I had what you call, if I meant ‘no’, I meant ‘yes’. If I was hot, I was cold. There’s a term for that but I can’t think about the terms, not dyslexia but something that’s opposite of what you mean. Being pregnant is so difficult. The doctors diagnose you as being pregnant. It makes … the doctors diagnose you as far as heart disease and strokes disease, if you have no prior family history of that. … I had no history of strokes or heart attack in my family. So the last thing I thought about in my mind, I am having a stroke or heart attack. Getting back to my daughter calling ‘911’ and they were there within three to five minutes. It really saved my life but when I got to the hospital I was still not diagnosed -- would have heart disease or heart congestion or stroke and I was still not diagnosed until my husband came in the hospital, which was 15 minutes later and he says, “Over here, my wife has had a stroke”. They thought he was a doctor because my husband and I are biracial. So they thought that he was my doctor and I was his patient. They never got the fact that he was indeed my husband. My husband said, he ordered so many tests… he said, “My wife needs an MRI. My wife needs to be checked at Woody Creek”, and they got the ball rolling. They didn’t realize he was not a doctor until I was in the machine which looked like a casket and I was so overwhelmed, I was so frightened because he could not go with me because I had to go to another room that he was not allowed to visit me. And when I got to the room, they all thought that I could not understand or hear what’s going on, which is a mistake that non-stroke patients make. They think that you had no brain, and I can hear and understand everything they were saying about me, and they were making jokes about, “Her husband thinks he is a doctor”, but my husband actually saved my life by getting me the right test that diagnosed I had a stroke. After I had stroke and heart to test, I was treated pretty much differently than all the other patients because I was not able to be given ithe clot-busting drugs that are given to stroke patients and clot-patients. I was not able to get because the fear of hurting my baby. When I was told that -- it panicked me even more but I knew that I had to lay there, be quiet and sleep to not raise my blood pressure, but it’s hard to do, I mean you don’t know. … You’re not able to name your baby, can’t even talk to say how you feel or if you want to be able to survive and you, you know take that on, you have to help your baby first and me second, the mom second but I was not able to say anything like that because I was paralyzed with fear and emotions, my emotions paralyzed me. When I knew that, every time I got upset it was a scary moment for me, doctors and nurse came in the room and they know what to do and they said, “We can’t give her anything”, and I said okay, I am going to have to calm myself down. I need music, music was a part of my recovery. I need music. I need a dictionary book, I need a tennis ball which I loved tennis. I love pageants. I need a pageant magazine to focus on things that make me happy and things I want to do again -- one more time in my life because doctor said I would never be able to play tennis. I would never be able to compete in pageants. I would never be able to dance. I would never be able to tap, ballet, jazz… anything I loved doing, swimming and to lose my baby. When they said that to me and to my husband about me, I was so determined to do everything to prove them wrong. After I got out the hospital, a year and a half later, I competed in my first pageant again. I knew that maybe I won that pageant because I was a survivor and determined to educate people as well as men and women and children because all people can have stroke, no matter what color you are, no matter how fit you are, it can happen, at the blink of the eye, your life can change. I want to say that it’s best to take care of yourself, just help physically, emotionally and mentally, for the better of your family. Take vitamins, multivitamin, you follow your doctor’s prescriptions they order, do a lot of walking and take time to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. Eat well, healthy food, balanced meal, exercise a lot and overall reduce your stress and literally take time to smell at the roses.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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