Zaundra Martinez, a mother of two Girl Scouts, marks the UTHealth Girl Scouts Stomp Out Stroke Program event on her family’s calendar each year. After suffering multiple strokes in 2008, Martinez wanted to ensure her daughters are prepared to respond quickly if another one strikes.
“My family knew about strokes, but I didn’t have the typical signs aside from a horrific headache,” she said. “It took me hours to receive care when rapid treatment could have helped protect my brain from lasting damage.”
Stroke occurs when a blockage or a rupture in a blood vessel interrupts blood flow in the brain, depriving it of oxygen. The longer a stroke goes untreated, the more brain damage it may cause.
“After my strokes, I struggled to remember daily tasks and had to create checklists for myself,” Martinez said. “It was a long road to recovery, and I still have trouble remembering things.”
Martinez wants her daughters to feel confident in identifying the signs of stroke and knowing when to call for help. That’s why she’s looking forward to The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth)’s third annual UTHealth Girl Scouts Stomp Out Stroke Program Saturday, Sept. 26. The program offers a day of virtual fun and learning for Girl Scouts and their families.
The free virtual program, organized by UTHealth Institute for Stroke and Cerebrovascular Disease, will provide lifesaving information about stroke prevention and treatment through interactive educational sessions. After completing the program, Daisies, Brownies, and Juniors will earn a Stomp Out Stroke patch.
Students from McGovern Medical School at UTHealth will lead sessions on topics like brain anatomy and function, brain fitness, and brain nutrition. Additionally, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center will host a session on tobacco prevention, and The John P. McGovern Museum of Health and Medical Science will lead a sheep brain dissection – a crowd favorite each year.
Elizabeth Noser, MD, associate professor of neurology with McGovern Medical School and UTHealth Neurosciences, created the program to help inform the community about how to recognize, respond to, and prevent stroke.
“Stroke remains a leading cause of death and adult disability in the U.S.,” said Noser, who is also the James C. Grotta, MD, Chair in Neurological Recovery and Stroke at McGovern Medical School and a member of the UTHealth Institute for Stroke and Cerebrovascular Disease. “This program helps our community recognize the signs of stroke and learn how to respond quickly to save lives.”
Additionally, the program teaches young girls about brain healthy choices – that good choices at a young age will help keep them in good health and that it’s important to share with others the ways they can care for their brain, Noser said.
“Each year, we have fun and learn something new,” Martinez said. “I hope my daughters remember everything from the program so if they see a stroke occurring, they know what is happening, what to do, and how to act quickly.”
Although this year’s program will be virtual due to COVID-19, Noser notes it may allow more Girl Scouts to attend while also creating a much-needed community outreach opportunity for medical students.
“Since the pandemic knocked us off schedule, we’ve received messages from Girl Scout troops and their families wondering when the program will return,” she said. “We’re excited to bring this virtual program to our attendees’ homes with the help of our medical students, who will take this experience with them through the rest of their careers.”
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