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Go Red For Women, Stroke Survivor Stories

The Mary Free Bed Guild is a sponsor of the West Michigan Go Red For Women® campaign. At the 2010 annual luncheon, Mary Free Bed unveiled this year’s public service announcement billboards to the public, sponsored by Mary Free Bed.

Go Red For Women is a national awareness campaign sponsored by the American Heart Association to increase awareness of heart disease – the number one killer of women in the U.S.

Mary Free Bed’s Darci Luyk attended the event and wore red, along with all the women in attendance, to show support for the cause.

The 2010 PSA billboards feature local women who have survived a stroke and have completed stroke rehabilitation at Mary Free Bed, below are the stories of two of these women:


Sometimes the warning signs of a stroke can be masked by chronic pain. Linda Arechiga of Grand Rapids deals with constant pain as the result of a previous accident. When she was driving to a party on January 2, 2010 and developed a severe headache, she wasn’t overly alarmed. However, when her arm, lips, face and leg began to tingle, she knew that something was going on, but did not seek help.

On January 3, she noticed her symptoms were a little worse, but she still did not seek help. On January 4, she finally told her family that she should see the doctor. She was bleeding from a small vein in her brain. Had a larger vein been involved, her situation could have ended much differently.

Linda, who has a strong faith, felt that the Lord was protecting her during this time and during the time of her recovery. She enjoys working with the specialists at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital who push her to the limits of her ability while treating all of the patients with respect and dignity.

Her least favorite part of her recovery has been working to improve her walking and balance. She currently uses a cane and a walker to help her move around her home. She’s glad that she has regained daily living skills like cooking, and cleaning while she looks forward to driving again. When asked what advice she might have for other women, she’ll tell them that they should keep an eye on their own health. Linda knows that her family was very frightened by her medical scare and they are monitoring their own health closer than they have in the past. Overall she feels that her faith has played a significant role in her story and hopes that other patients might find a similar comfort in their recovery.


The Coleman family was under a lot of stress with the unexpected passing of their patriarch, Charles Coleman. His daughter Shondra, who was 6 months pregnant, was in mourning and didn’t notice the numbness in her left side and other symptoms that indicated she was about to have a stroke. She attributed the fact that she felt unwell to the shock and the grief of her father’s passing.

The next morning she was preparing breakfast for her household and putting bacon in the oven when her symptoms became too overwhelming to ignore. Her speech was slurred and she had burned her hand on the oven and didn’t realize it. While the bacon was burning in the oven, she told her older son to call an ambulance. She was finally aware she was having a stroke. Both paramedics and firemen responded to their 911 call.

At age 36 and being a type 2 diabetic, she is not sure what caused the blood clot that lodged in her neck and caused the stroke in her brain. But with her pregnancy she had some increased challenges with the impending birth and need to care for an infant.

Shondra recovered for 3 months at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital while she underwent many therapies to help her recover enough to give birth and live independently. She needed to learn to walk again. And she credits the experts there who had her do her rehabilitation with a baby doll so that her therapies would be as practical as possible.

Her son Cordae was born October 8 by C-section delivery. Shondra cares for him with only one hand and is challenged by the fact that she is not allowed to pick him up. She’s had the blessing and support of family members who help perform day-to-day activities.

She has learned that it’s not a shameful thing to be in recovery and walk and talk differently than others. She’s learned that it’s okay to lean on family members and tell them when you need help. When asked what lessons she has for other women, Shondra is emphatic that you don’t let your stroke stop you from living your life.

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