A pharmacist for a regional grocer, health and wellness was the foundation of Faye Baracats' life. She advocated daily to her patients the importance of living a healthy lifestyle, eating well, and exercising.
Faye, 42, and mom to two teenagers, also practiced what she preached. She followed a Mediterranean diet and exercised regularly.
During her lunchbreak one day in August 2020, Faye suddenly felt unwell.
"I felt a rush of blood in the right side of her head. I thought I just got up too fast," she says. "But then I began getting dizzy and a headache came on."
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the store was short-staffed, and Faye says she never thought her symptoms were something serious.
"It never crossed my mind. I don't have high blood pressure, or high cholesterol and I'm not a diabetic. I thought I'm stressed, exhausted and maybe I'm dehydrated."
She asked her coworker to call her daughter, hoping to go home and sleep it off.
When her daughter arrived, though, Faye's symptoms has worsened. She was incoherent, her words were not making sense and she had trouble standing.
It wasn't until Faye woke up in the ICU that she became aware of how life threatening her situation had been. "I was in and out of consciousness, but I know I'm lucky to be alive," says Faye, who spent 21 days in the hospital before being released.
Today, she's back at work and though trying to be more mindful and slow down her pace, she's more passionate than ever about health and wellness. But now, advocating for stroke awareness. "We need more education in the workplace about stroke symptoms and awareness," Faye says.
"The shock of not knowing what was happening makes me realize how many lives can be saved by recognizing the symptoms of stroke because it never occurred to me it could be a stroke. I want others to find hope in my story and, learn how to identify a stroke."