This Thanksgiving holiday has added meaning for one local family. Two years ago, a Jacksonville mom suffered a stroke as family members were still in town celebrating the holiday season.
Sherry Pinkstaff woke up to go running, as she does every day at 6 a.m. But that day, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, she felt off. Her body felt heavy.
“It’s a feeling I never had before and have never had since. It was something that was really, really wrong,” Pinkstaff said.
Pinkstaff went to wake up her husband, Kevin, and her understanding was intact, but she was unable to speak to him.
“I tried to wake him up and he looked at me and he said, ‘Are you OK?’ I didn’t realize it, I was unable to talk. Until he said, ‘can you not talk?’ I couldn’t say no. I couldn’t say anything,” Pinkstaff said.
He immediately knew something was wrong and picked up the phone and called 911 after asking her if she could respond.
“I said, 'What’s wrong? Can you not speak?'” Kevin Pinkstaff said.
Kevin thought she might be having a stroke.
“I could see the side of her face slumping – and she couldn’t speak,” he said.
She went by ambulance to Mayo Clinic’s Comprehensive Stroke Center, where her doctor confirmed blood clots on her brain. Mayo is the only Joint Commission Comprehensive Stroke Center in Jacksonville and was the first certified in the state about two years ago because of their levels of care.
“I thought, 'Am I going to lose my wife? How different will our life be?'” Kevin Pinkstaff said.
Her medical team surgically removed the clot; soon after, her body function returned to normal, but her speech was still a challenge.
Her biggest fear, she recalls, was losing her ability to speak with her children, say their names, or tell them she loved them. Pinkstaff said immediately after surgery, she worked to formulate letters into words so she could vocalize her thoughts to her family.
“I didn’t think about cars or things. I just thought about people and how much I was hoping to get back to those people. There is no time that is more precious than the time that you can spend with your family,” Pinkstaff said.
With determination and grit, Pinkstaff overcame her adversity and is back to reading books and communicating with her family.
Pinkstaff said life is about enjoying the simple moments; her favorite moments are when she is surrounded by loved ones who fill her heart with joy.
“I’m thankful for the ability to go outside, exercise, and that my kids are smiling – and that I can provide for them and I can tell them that I love them,” Pinkstaff said.
As a University of North Florida professor and Mayo researcher, this mother is using her story to advocate for stroke victims.
“If you recognize the symptoms of stroke, you can be somebody’s hero, that’s amazing. Kevin is my hero. There’s no doubt. He’s an accountant. I’m the medical person, and this happened to me,” Pinkstaff said.
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