SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Even as Coronavirus captures the nation’s attention, some advocates are teaching people about another serious illness that has affected more than seven million Americans.

Stroke continues to affect someone every 40 seconds, according to the American Heart Association (AHA), the organization behind WSAV-sponsored events like the Go Red Luncheon.

But now, in the age of a fast-moving pandemic, efforts to educate during the month of May — which is National Stroke Awareness month — are entirely virtual.

“If it wasn’t for organizations like the American Heart Association, we wouldn’t have advances that are here today,” said AHA Director of Development Ansley Howze.

Howze says she started working with AHA when her father recovered after undergoing several intensive heart surgeries. Tara MacInnes involved herself with AHA because she has a rare brain disorder called Moyamoya.

She recovered from two intensive brain surgeries when she was a teenager. Her husband — who nearly died from an undetected brain aneurysm — and dog are also stroke survivors.

In addition to bringing attention to National Stroke Awareness Month, the MacInneses are staunch advocates for World Moyamoya Day on May 6. And it just so happens, the couple is also celebrating their wedding anniversary this month.

“There’s a lot of isolation, which is a strange word to use right now, particularly during COVID-19,” said Tara MacInnes. “There’s a lot about being a stroke survivor that can be isolating and that brings on a whole lot of other things, particularly anxiety and depression.”

People with underlying health conditions are more at risk during the pandemic. Despite that, MacInnes — who has always taken the high -road — says her focus is on the word ‘fast.’ It represents the symptoms of a stroke.

  • F: Face drooping?
  • A: Arm weakness?
  • S: Speech difficulty?
  • T: Time to call 911.

Horze says people are hesitant to call 911 — especially now during the pandemic — when they experience symptoms of a stroke. The quicker you call, however, the more likely you are to recover.

Donations to AHA go directly to research and support for survivors. Horze says the organization has a $2.5 million grant to understand COVID-19’s affect on people with heart and brain diseases.

If you’d like to help with other initiatives, consider donating at the following link. You can also call (843)480-4906.