Big Bend honors alumnus who survived stroke

A former member of the Marching 100 was recognized as the 2006 honorary survivor for the Big Bend Heart Walk.

Reginald Ray, 42, a husband and father of four, is a former Florida A&M University graduate and member of the world renowned Marching 100.

But what impacted him more than his previous affiliation with the university and band was what happened almost a year ago.Ray suffered from a stroke last November but lived to tell the story.

“It was so subtle; I was doing the things I normally do,” Ray said. For many people, a stroke can occur at any given time with little or no symptoms.

After a stroke, there is a three-hour period to be treated with a drug called tissue plasminogen activator, which Ray missed by hours. “I had to drive from Quincy to get to the hospital, but I still felt okay.”

A stroke takes about 72 hours to manifest, so it wasn’t until the third day that Ray felt his stroke’s wrath.

“After the third day, I couldn’t walk or sit up,” Ray said. “I was basically paralyzed; my speech was slurred, and my thoughts were confusing.”

Ray, who is now a CPR instructor, educates others about the signs and preventions of heart attacks and strokes.

Symptoms of strokes include sudden numbness or weakness of body parts, confusion, impaired vision and loss of balance. To prevent heart attacks and strokes, Ray said, people should exercise regularly, diet and watch their cholesterol – especially black and Hispanic men who are at the highest at risk. While Ray touches the lives of others with his story, he still suffers from the effects of his stroke.

He now walks with a cane and is still trying to recover the feeling in his hand and parts of his body.

“I’m blessed to be alive because most people die after suffering from a stroke. You never know what’s to become of it,” Ray said.

The American Heart Association nominated Ray for his survivor story with hopes to make people aware of heart attacks and strokes.

Heart attacks are the No. 1 cause of deaths in America, and strokes are the No. 3.

“The walk is a pretty good event and expects to exceed last year attendance which was 5,000 people,” said Jay Schleuning, communications director for the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association, of the AHA Heart Walk.

The goal for this year’s Heart Walk, which will be held at Tom Brown Park on Oct. 7 at 10 a.m., is to raise $375,000.

Money raised will help fund research programs for strokes and heart attacks and advocacy efforts.

“I’m very excited about representing an event that is so positive,” Ray said. “I can’t wait to inform others and talk with a lot of people.”

People from all over Leon County are set to be in attendance. The White and Gold Honor Society and the FAMU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences will also be among the volunteers and participants of the Heart Walk.

“We are just helping set up the event; we don’t have a team, but some of the students are participating in the walk,” said

Tramaine Smith, a fifth-year pharmacy student from Miami. The famous line, “it can’t happen to me,” will be put to bed as participants walk in support of stroke and heart awareness, Ray said.

“It can happen to you just as it can happen to someone else,” Ray said. “It can happen to anybody.”