Retired teacher now sharing lessons with adults about preventing a stroke

A retired teacher wants to help others prevent suffering from a stroke, like she did. During this National Stroke Awareness Month, she's teaming up with her doctor at UTHealth to raise awareness about the importance of monitoring your blood pressure. 

Terri Valiare suffered a life-changing health crisis while having a fun night out on the town. 

"I was having the time of my life, and while I was dancing, I was holding a bottle of water, I was spilling water, felt strange, kept walking, noticing I had a weakness and a slow weakness on my right side," says Terri. 

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Terri's husband rushed her to the emergency room at Memorial Hermann in Pearland. Her condition was so serious, that she was transported by ambulance to Memorial Hermann in the Texas Medical Center. 

She was diagnosed with what is often the most devastating form of stroke, a hemorrhagic stroke, or brain bleed. 

"It didn't really dawn on me the severity of the type of stroke I had until Dr. Sharrief came in and was sitting bedside and said, you're lucky to be alive," exclaims Terri. 

Her blood pressure, when she came in, was quite high. The top number was in the 220's and as we know the normal numbers around 120, so it's quite high, which is what we typically see with this type of stroke and the best thing that we know to do is control the blood pressure when they come in," explains Dr. Anjail Sharrief-Ibrahim. 


She helped put a recovery plan in place for Terri at Memorial Hermann. She's also the Director of Stroke Prevention with the UTHealth Stroke Institute. Terri joined her STOP program, which stands for Stroke Telemedicine Outpatient Prevention, aimed at lowering blood pressure to prevent another stroke.

The program offers telehealth intervention to see if this type of care will help improve racial disparities in outcomes for stroke survivors. 

"It was really a pilot program to see how we as physicians, the team, can support patients to help get their blood pressure under control after stroke, because unfortunately, only 50% of patients who have a stroke, have their blood pressure controlled, and that's one of the major contributors to another stroke or heart attack, so we're trying to understand through the STOP program! We have gotten a very big NIH grant ($3.1 million) to do it for several hundred patients, so we have a pharmacist, a social worker, and a care provider, to follow our patients for six months after a stroke to get their blood pressure under control," says Dr. Sherrief-Ibrahim.

EXPLAINER: Why telemedicine is not enough to address racial health disparities

Strokes can have devastating consequences but important to note, they are often preventable. Terri had warning signs during both of her pregnancies that she had a blood pressure problem. Now she wishes she had closely monitored her numbers later in life. "It really hit when they said stroke is a silent killer because for me, I didn't feel bad, I was active and for the most part, busy, always moving, active with family, school, job, church, and after this, I have a very different take, especially after being in the STOP program," explains Terri. 

Terri spent more than three decades of her life teaching young children in school. Now she wants to share more teaching moments, this time for adults. She encourages everyone to monitor their blood pressure: know those numbers. She's moving her body even more these days and encourages you to do the same, plus eat as healthy as you can. Doctors agree that all of those can help prevent a stroke. 

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