Health center offers help for stroke survivors

Celene Vargas
Staff Writer

Stroke survivors and their loved ones gathered to learn more about strokes and share experiences Saturday at the Pomona Valley Health Center for Stroke Awareness Day.

The event was a day filled with preventative information, aftercare information and support.

Steven Marquez, a Fontana resident, is a stroke survivor. He spoke before an audience of more than 50 people about his experience and shared some words of encouragement.

“I’m trying to recover as much as I lost from the stroke,” Marquez said. “I would encourage you, too, to look within and try to find your own strength…and live life the best you can.”

Marquez had a hemorrhagic stroke two years ago at age 47 after coming home from a wedding. He said it was a normal day and had no reason to suspect he would be having one. The day before his stroke, he had been playing baseball and felt “invincible.”

Marquez has a history of high blood pressure and has been under treatment for it; however, he was not consistent with taking his medication.

“They had to shock my face to bring my face up, I couldn’t walk (and had to use a wheelchair) everywhere I went,” Marquez said.

The health center handed out a flier with a stroke risk assessment. According to the flier, age and high blood pressure can be factors that lead to stroke.

“Eventually, because I did my therapy, I was able to walk and function almost like a normal person,” Marquez said.

Marquez has recuperated for the most part, but he still has some problems using his right arm and leg.

Signs and fliers with tips on how to spot a stroke using the acronym F.A.S.T., which stands for Face, Arm, Speech and Time, decorated walls and tables.

Face means to check for an uneven smile or a facial droop. Arm means to check if it is weak or numb. Speech is for slurred speech and difficulty in speaking or understanding. Time stands for calling 911 immediately.

“There is a small window of time a person has to be given the best possible treatment,” said Katrina Woolfolk, a registered nurse who also does the stroke support group at the health center.“After that, it is just managing (the consequences of a stroke).”

She said during that window of time, there are two treatments that can be administered to a stroke patient: tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) and a thrombectomy.

Woolfolk explained that a tPA helps dissolve the clot in the brain that is blocking the artery. A thrombectomy retrieves the clot. These two treatments save brain tissue by restoring circulation, and the less amount of brain tissue killed, the more body functions are saved.

Specialty Program Coordina­tor for Physical Therapy Diego Gavela talked about balance and how to minimize injuries when a stroke patient is recuperating. He said as people age, balance control becomes difficult.

“Balance depends on three things,” Gavela said. “It depends on your eyesight. It depends also on your vestibular, which is your inner ear balance, and it also depends on your reflexes.”

“If you take a component out, say your vestibular caused by a stroke, now you’re only relying on your eyesight and reflexes,” Gavela said.

He said in people over the age 65, one in three people falls and sustains moderate or severe injuries.

Gavela introduced a tai chi program the health center will hold to increase balance, prevent falls and regain strength.

He demonstrated three exercises that would help with everyday movements that may become difficult to perform as people age, and he had the audience follow along.

The first exercise is called “Holding the Ball” and is for stepping sideways or for getting in and out of places, such as the shower.

The second exercise is called “Brushing the Knee.” It is for stepping forward. Gavela explained this is helpful because when one is about to fall forward, the first reaction is to quickly take a step to keep from falling.

The final exercise Gavela demonstrated was the “Repulse Monkey,” which is for stepping backward and helps if one needs to get out of the way or if one is pushed and needs to regain one’s footing.

The event also had booths offering stroke survivors services like palliative care and hospice, an after stroke program and health insurance counseling.

The first tai chi session will be May 28 at the Pomona Valley Health Center. Accommoda­tions for stroke survivors will be made.

Celene Vargas can be reached at

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