Stroke Smart Magazine
CHAMPION OF HOPE
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Champion of Hope
The Suridis Family
By Jane Sims
On St. Patrick's Day in 1998, Jim, Gregory, Annette and Alicia Suridis unexpectedly lost their mother, Dinah, to a stroke. Rather than grieve and move on with their lives, the four siblings made a lasting move in honor of their mother's memory by creating “Walk with Dinah and Friends” to raise money for stroke prevention and awareness. Now in its tenth year, the annual event held every autumn in Long Island, New York is a celebration of life and a reminder that stroke can be a silent killer.
“We live each day with all the wonderful memories of our mother,” said eldest brother Jim, 53. “We can think of no better way to keep her memory alive than by walking in her memory and raising awareness about this dreadful disease.”
Dinah's stroke came as a complete shock to the Suridis family. The vibrant and active 66 year old woman exercised every day. There were no signs of an impending stroke.
“My mother was the picture of health,” said Jim. “On the day of her stroke, she was talking to Alicia when suddenly her words slurred and part of her face couldn't move.” After a week in the hospital, Dinah suffered several additional mini-strokes and died.
The Suridis family later learned that a blockage in Dinah's carotid artery had caused her strokes. “We had no idea about the blockage,” said Jim. “Had we known, there may have been something we could have done to prevent her death. This is why we wanted to promote stroke awareness.”
The siblings decided to do something to prevent other families from suffering a similar loss and contacted National Stroke Association for ways to raise stroke awareness. The idea for “Walk with Dinah and Friends” was an instant hit with loved ones.
“In our walk's inaugural year, we raised $1,500,” said Jim. “To date, our walks have raised more than $90,000. Our goal each year is to exceed the previous year's donation.”
“All of the money goes to National Stroke Association to get the word out about what people can do to reduce their risk and recognize the symptoms of stroke,” said Jim. “The good news is that 80 percent of all strokes are preventable, and prevention is the key.”
The Suridis family has taken prevention to heart. “Our mother's death has made us all change our perspective on health,” said Jim. “We all try to eat healthfully and exercise. I work out twice a week and have lost 30 pounds. My sister Annette is a certified trainer who's big on health.”
Their new focus on wellness may have prevented another family tragedy. Last year, an ultrasound of Alicia's neck revealed that her right carotid artery was up to 70 percent blocked. Like her mother, Alicia had no symptoms of any blockage. She had surgery to repair the blockage in her artery and remains healthy today. “My mother saved my life,” said Alicia, 51. “If she had not passed away, we would never have gotten our own arteries checked and I never would have known about the blockage.”
With every mile of “Walk with Dinah and Friends,” the Suridis family moves one step closer toward stroke awareness and prevention. More importantly, they walk together. “Our mother's death has brought us closer as a family,” said Jim. “It has also given us a different perspective on life. We now realize that we have to try to live for today and make the best of it.”
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