Different Strokes

Allan Appel PhotoHis blood pressure was 260 over 150. He was having excruciating headaches.

That was not Raymond Sims, Sr., but Franklin Delano Roosevelt at the Yalta Conference in February, 1945.

Two months later the president would be dead of a severe hemorraghic stroke.

After learning that and much else at a community stroke prevention program in Newhallville, Sims decided no longer to ignore his own occasional episodes of dizziness.

Thursday night Sims and his wife of 51 years, Ellecia, were among 60 people who gathered at the Christian Tabernacle Church on Newhall Street for the program.

The program on both how to prevent a stroke and how to recognize one at its onset was organized by self-described “health literacy” advocate and TV personality N’Zinga Shani as part of her her OneWorld Progressive Institute‘s “21st Century Conversation” series.

The tips were provided by Dr. Reversa Mills (pictured left with Shani) and Karin Nystrom, both of the Yale University stroke program.

After introducing Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin, Ariel Sharon, younger folks like Sharon Stone and other celebrity stroke victims, the Yale staffers defined stroke: a condition caused by denial of blood to the brain due either to clot-induced blockage (ischemic stroke)  or bleeding vessels (FDR’s hemorraghic problem).

The tips to avoid a stroke appeared not new to the generally elderly audience: exercise, eat right and less, and control blood pressure and diabetes.

What appeared to intrigue the audience more were the tips the Yale medical experts offered to recognize stroke, contained in the acronym FAST, which people studied as they sat around the U-shaped table in the church’s community room: F is for facial numbness; A is for arm or leg weakness; S is for impaired speech; and T means it’s time to call 911.

“Every minute that goes by that you’re having a stroke you lose two million brain cells,” said Nystrom, who is a nurse and clinical coordinator of the program.

Click on the play arrow to hear Nystrom graphically describe the administering of Tissue Plasminogen Activator or TPA, the one approved drug, known as the “clot buster.” It can do that, but must be administered within 4 hours of the stroke.

But you can’t go to the hospital every time you have an ache and a pain, said Kim Martin, one of the leaders of the church’s wellness ministry that coordinated the program with Shani.

Martin (foreground) said she suffers from tendonitis. If she worried it was a stroke each time weakness or pain occurred, “I’d spend all my time in the E.R.”

There were also concerns about co-pays and the costs of being ambulanced to the hospital.

“Sudden onset,” said Nystrom. And of a condition not experienced before.

Shani urged audience members to “know your bodies.”

She described a neighbor who was overweight and eating French fries which she sprinkled with lots of salt. Shani said she asked why. “It’s OK, I’m taking my medicine,” came the reply.

Wrong! This is why Shani was so passionate about talking to the community, especially to black women, she said. “These [stresses and conditions] are endemic. We as black people and women in particular we tend to defer our own needs.”

Throughout the two-hour session, Shani peppered the technical, medical discussion with personal stories and a passionate plea: “Change something in your life that will lead to better health.”

Ellecia Sims said that while she has been on blood pressure medicine for 30 years, there were periods when she just forgot about it.

“My kids reminded me,” she said as she noticed her husband coming back from the repast tables at the break with a second slice of pizza.

All the pizza was cheese only with no stroke-inducing toppings. Dessert was fresh fruit.

When the session was over, Ellecia Sims said that she had known much of what she heard but that hearing it again was useful. She also said that she had thought the TPA window was three hours and seemed pleased to have another hour, just in case.

Her husband Raymond said that he and his wife take care of each other and that he is generally in good health. He’s been walking two to three miles a day since retirement 20 years ago. Her knees prevent her that exercise.

On those walks and at other times he said he gets occasional dizzy spells. “I have had a habit of usually ignoring them. I’m going to pay attention now.”

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posted by: THREEFIFTHS on April 15, 2011  2:48pm

Wait until 2014 when the healthcare bill kicks in at full force.There will be a whole lot of people with excruciating headaches.

The tips to avoid a stroke appeared not new to the generally elderly audience: exercise, eat right and less, and control blood pressure and diabetes.


They why are they giving people pizza.

posted by: RICHARD GAY on April 17, 2011  10:51am


posted by: Karen Greene on April 19, 2011  4:06pm

Thanks to N’Zinga Shani and her One World Progressive Institute for getting this critical medical information out there.  We all hear stories and tend to ignore them but this article brings it home…we see here it’s extremely important to know the facts - it certainly can save lives…we now know what to do in the event of a stroke and the steps we can take to prevent them.  Thanks again for some priceless information.  Look forward to continued information through this forum.

posted by: Suzanna Lengyel on April 19, 2011  9:21pm

The most important lesson I have learned from this excellent forum is the following: DON’T DELAY! CALL 9-1-1! I have a tendency to hope and to believe that the bad symptoms will go away. Dr Mills, Nurse Nystrom, and N’Zinga Shani have persuaded me that TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE.

posted by: Doreen R. on April 19, 2011  9:42pm

Dear Ms. Shani:
Thank you and Christian Tabernacle for your service to the community, and thanks to the Yale Stroke Center for being a responsible organization citizen. We thank the nurse and the doctor for their service to our community, and we certainly thank you for all that you do for us. May the good Lord continue to keep you in good health and reward you with many blessings; you are indeed someone to be treasured in our community.

posted by: Dorthula "Dottie" Green on April 20, 2011  8:34am

This is a wonderful collaborative effort to provide health information to the community.  Ms. Shani has long worked tirelessly to inform the community on health issues.  Forums such as these are vital to supporting healthier living and potential saves lives.  All age ranges can benefit from these programs.  Thank you to CBC and One World for the commitment to saving lives.  You ‘light candles’ rather than waste time cursing the darkness.

posted by: Laura T. Hall on April 20, 2011  9:03am

What an outstanding forum! This is a topic that needs to be covered continuously. Strokes are endemic to the Black community. We hear news of family members and friends who have suffered a stroke so often that we can lapse into thinking it’s an inevitable condition of aging. It’s not.  There are health choices we can make to mitigate the risks. Knowing what to do in the event of a stroke is invaluable. Keep up the good work Ms. Shani.

posted by: Marion on April 20, 2011  9:50pm

Hello N’Zinga:
I am so glad to read this article and to see that you are still able to educate the community.  I am particularly pleased that Christian Tabernacle Church has joined you to spread the word of wellness that are so important. 
God bless, keep and strengthen you in the struggles you face with those who are trying to put stumbling blocks in your way.  I am praying for you every day that the barriers will soon be removed.  Thanks also to this online journal and the good people at the Yale Stroke Center.  Good deeds will prevail; they always have. 
Peace and blessings to you my dear.

posted by: Clive Spencer on April 21, 2011  8:49am

21st Century Conversations provides an invaluable service to the New Haven and surrounding communities.e.g the April 14th forum on Strokes provided all who were in attendance pertinent information on whatbaxction to take when the signs of a Stroke appears….sometimes not so obvious…nevertheless act promptly. Kudos to NZINGA for the important work that she does.Let us continue our support for this important endeavour.

posted by: Andre Massiah on April 23, 2011  10:39pm

It is certainly gratifying to see that the pastor at Christian Tabernacle Church and his Wellness Ministry have chosen to be partners with OneWorld Progressive Institute and N’Zinga Shani to bring this valuable health education message to the broader community.  This expands the reach of this church and the reach of OneWorld in very meaningful ways and I applaud everyone involved.  As an educator N’Zinga Shani is passionate about the value of knowledge to everyone with emphasis on those who are most disenfranchised.  Her television program “21st Century Conversations” covers a range of topics and should be seen by everyone in our various communities.  Thanks to Yale Stroke Center, Christian Tabernacle and OneWorld Progressive Institute for their caring commitment to the greater New Haven community, and to the New Haven Independent for being such a positive conduit of good information.

posted by: E Duncan on April 24, 2011  10:49pm

Preventing Strokes is a very important health topic to be educated about. Many of us have little pieces of information but not enough of a full understanding about what cause strokes.  I used to think that only older people (say those over 60) get strokes, but recently I learned that much younger people also get them. The F.A.S.T. information is really helpful; it is also good to see people from the Yale Stroke Center respond to Ms. Shani’s request and come into the church.  Thanks to Rev. King for supporting N’Zinga Shani in her efforts to educate the community about health and well being.  I recommend to people that they also visit the http://www.oneworldpi.org to get much more information about other aspects of health care literacy; the site is full of good information.
Esther Duncan

posted by: Marc on April 25, 2011  10:28am

Once again “OneWorld” has provided timely, critical information and guidance on medical issues which affect so many in our community.  Given our life styles, food choices and lack of sustained exercise practices, we all benefit from these types of programs that feature local medical resources, local people and usable suggestions(FAST). Ms. Shani’s ability to bring together Community and Community resresources applauded.

posted by: Takayla Thomas on April 25, 2011  9:08pm

“I’m a personal trainer at a local gym and I had a new prospect answering some health history questions before starting his session. He started to exhibit some of the symptoms reported in the article. I informed the management and then informed the member that I would need a doctor’s note before continuing. Unfortunately, he was offended. Maybe if he had gone to a workshop like this, he would have been more receptive to my recommendation.”
Thanks for putting out this important info.

posted by: Jude Achu on April 26, 2011  12:37am

This type of health education program is of key importance to the entire community. I am glad to see a small organization such as OneWorld partnering with a church to inform the community about Preventing Strokes. Thanks to the NHI for bringing us this inspiring story; thanks to N’Zinga Shani for caring enough to do these programs.  I hope that people will always respond positively when invited to these programs; they could mean the difference between a healthy life and chronic illness.  Thanks to Pastor King, Yale Stroke Center, and Ms. Shani.

posted by: Nicholas Cunningham on April 27, 2011  6:11pm

I give praise to the Almighty God for the person of N’Zinga Shani and all those who help her to do this important work of informing the community.  There are far too many severe health issues particularly in the Black community; there are also many other stressful concerns. It is wonderful that the pastor of Christian Tabernacle Church has seen it appropriate to join with N’Zinga and her OneWorld organization to bring the ministry of health and wellness to greater New Haven. This is truly God’s work in the most profound way; it is hard to cope with all the other issues in life when we are not healthy.  May the good Lord bless and keep everyone who is engaged in this mission.  May N’Zinga Shani and OneWorld prosper beautifully and may Yale health facilities and this NHI Journal continue to support her efforts.  We need more N’Zinga Shanis in this world.
Nicholas Cunningham

posted by: Yolette Bryant on April 27, 2011  6:18pm

I applaud Ms. Shani for providing yet another meaningful topic of discussion. Having had a family member who had a stroke in years past, I was grateful to be refreshed on the information about what signs to look for, and will be watchful of the new acronym, F.A.S.T that I learned about only by viewing 21st Century Conversations. I look forward to your next topic of discussion.

posted by: Cynthia Cunningham on April 27, 2011  6:56pm

Thanks to Ms. N’Zinga Shani with 21st Century conversation for bringing this very important topic on both how to prevent a stroke and how to recognize one at its onset. So many of us are unaware of this until it is too late. I commend the Christian Tabernacle Church on Newhall Street for presenting this vital topic to their congregation. We do need much more programs like this to make the community aware and be ready to take charge of our health needs. Thanks again to 21st Century Conversation and we hope to hear much more from this program presenting health awareness to our communities.

posted by: Michele on April 27, 2011  8:25pm

Knowing how to prevent strokes is a VERY important topic, particularly to the black women.  Holding informative forums like these is an effective way to get the message to the community.  It’s great to see people like Dr. Shani spreading the word on health and wellness to those who need it.

posted by: Lavonne Beckford on April 27, 2011  10:31pm

It is wonderful to read this article and to see that so many people came out to take advantage of this important education program.  Thanks to the Yale Stroke Center’s Karin Nystrom and Dr. Reversa Mills, and a special thanks to Ms. Shani and her OneWorld group for making such an outstanding contribution to the community.  I know at least three people under the age of 50 who have suffered strokes.  Many times we falsely believe that someone has to be overweight to have a stroke; that is not so.  As Ms. Shani encouraged, it is important for us to pay attention to what is normal for us individually and what is not; yes, we need to know our bodies.  Thanks to the New Haven Independent for bringing us this wonderful article.  The OneWorld web site is truly awesome.

Lavonne Beckford

posted by: David Ffrench on April 28, 2011  10:19am

Thanks to OneWorld Progressive Institute and N’Zinga Shani for this type of commitment to the community, and thanks to the New Haven Independent for covering this program and bringing us the information.  Many of us are sick and tired of the crime stories and the celebrity reports.  It is programs like 21st Century Conversations that are making a positive difference in communities across America.  We thank Christian Tabernacle Church and the Yale University Stroke Program for helping Ms. Shani to fulfill her commitment to helping people in the community to become better informed about maintaining health.  Congratulations to everyone and thanks.

posted by: Sylvia Ffrench on April 28, 2011  10:22am

This is a truly beautiful article and a wonderful service to all of us who have access to it.  It is very beneficial to be able to read the “Know the warning signs of a stroke” information brochure on the web site.  We can see most of it.  It is also good to learn about the TPA medication.  Stroke signs and symptoms are not the things most people would know about easily, so this is truly helpful.  N’Zinga Shani has been bringing us these excellent programs for many years now; she is to be commended for her steadfast commitment to the community.  Doing this work cannot be easy especially when she does not often have the support she needs.  I am very grateful to the NHI, Yale and Christian Tabernacle for helping her to bring us this outstanding program.

posted by: N'Zinga Shani on April 29, 2011  2:56pm

All of us at OneWorld Progressive Institute, Inc are delighted with the wonderful response we have had to our Preventing Strokes Community Education Program.  We are deeply appreciative of the commitment made to OneWorld, Inc by Dr. Schindler, Karin Nystrom, APRN, and Dr. Reversa Mills.  We are equally appreciative of the efforts and commitment made Rev. Keith King, pastor at Christian Tabernacle Church (CTC).  He certainly has been the spiritual energy behind the program.

The tremendous success of the program is due to the work of everyone involved; the people of CTC Wellness Ministry, Pastor Leslie at Church-on-the-Rock, Gateway Community College and everyone who helped us to publicize the program.  There is no way to adequately convey the joy I experienced as I saw the large groups of people streaming into the building. 

I was happy because everyone who came would leave with a stock-pile of information that will make a positive difference in their lives.  Knowledge (when applied) is POWER! I was also happy because after working all day and then giving us about three additional hours of their time, the presenters would leave knowing that their efforts were appreciated. 

It is extremely difficult to work hard to give something that only a few people seem to want. One of the MOST rewarding ways for us to say “thank you” to those who try to make a positive difference in our community is to show up to these events and let people know that we value their contributions.  We at OneWorld are grateful to all those who showed up on April 14, 2011 and we are enormously grateful to Paul Bass, Allan Appel and the NHI for the excellent coverage.

Since the program we have received more than 70 emails and phone calls from people who read the outstanding article written by Allan Appel. Many people want to know how to get copies of the literature which were handed out by the presenters.  As a result of the large number of requests we wrote a special “Preventing Strokes” Blog and provided the 12 Stroke Prevention Tips as well as access information to Yale and to the National Stroke Foundation.  The Blog is available at: http://www.oneworldpi.org/blog/

posted by: Barbara Tito on May 3, 2011  3:29pm

We as a community are so fortunate to have someone as experienced and knowledgeable as N’Zing Shani to bring relevant programs such as this to our residents.  Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to our health. Keep these types of programs coming!

posted by: Maggie on May 3, 2011  11:15pm

Hello N’Zinga and Everyone at OneWorld:

Thank you for another outstanding program.  Someone just sent me the link to the fabulous article written by the New Haven Independent. I hope all of you volunteers at OneWorld are aware of the tremendous contributions you’re making to the community.  My mother lives in New Haven; she loves your program 21st Century Conversations.  She still remembers the excellent programs you did on Medicare Reform.  She says it is now difficult to find the program on her Comcast channel; she only gets to see it occasionally.  Please let us hear when is the regular time for it to air on Comcast channel 26.  The videos on your web site are excellent; we really applaud OneWorld for all of these excellent programs; we particularly like the civic engagement ones with the students.  Thank you all very much for your commitment to the people.

posted by: Debbie Washington on May 4, 2011  3:23pm

Explaining things to everyone’s understanding is a step in the right direction, and is going to render the most benefits in the long term.

Thank you N’Zinga Shani for making us aware of the signs of a stroke and how early detection and quick action can be the key to saving someone’s life.

posted by: Mara on May 4, 2011  3:27pm

The salt example is an eye opener on how many of us misunderstand the purpose of medication. We must take care of ourselves in the most basic, traditional ways, proven efficient by time: exercise, make the right food choices, minimize stress and focus on positive things. Medication and doctor’s intervention should be part of “the backup plan” and should not be abused. Your efforts and passion in this matter are bound to make a positive difference in many people’s lives.

posted by: Debbie Washington on May 4, 2011  3:43pm

Explaining the risk factors and signs of a stroke to everyone’s understanding is a step in the right direction, and is going to render the most benefits in the long term.

Thank you N’Zinga for making us more aware of this deadly disease and how early detection and quick action can be the key to saving someone’s life.

posted by: Ewa on May 4, 2011  10:24pm

Thank you Ms Shani for providing much needed education on that important topic. As a health care professional, I see first hand how strokes can change peoples’ lives. A lot of times strokes can be prevented with some life style modifications and we need to hear the message multiple times before it sinks in and we take action.  It is so much easier to prevent disease that to repair the damage that was done once it hits us. So lets eat right, exercise more, stop smoking and take the prescribed medication correctly and enjoy your healthier self!

posted by: Lamont Moye on May 6, 2011  8:28pm

I am very thankful and greatful for the program that N’zinga and the One World Progressive Institute for providing us this pertinent information.  I think we all, black and white alike should be fighting harder to keep programs like this airing!  My mother had several strokes before ending up in a nursing home, before she past.  We should pay more attention to the foods we eat.  Thank you again Ms N’zinga for all of your labor.

posted by: Ethlyn Hinds on May 9, 2011  8:31am

Hi N’Zinga:
I am pleased to read this coverage about the Preventing Strokes education programme you presented at Christian Tabernacle Church.  I am also very pleased that you had such a good turnout.  The information that the doctors presented is critically important so I am glad to see that people came out to participate.  So often many of us wait until it’s too late to take control of high blood pressure, obesity or diabetes.  By the time we seek help too much damage has been done.  Thank you and the doctors from Yale for reminding us how important it is to prevent strokes and other devastating illnesses.

posted by: Antonio Proscino on May 9, 2011  10:04pm

It is great to read articles such as this and to see that there are people like N’Zinga Shani and her organization, One-world, who are working to inform the community on these important issues in health care. Congratulations to N’Zinga for being such a committed person.

posted by: marilou on May 11, 2011  10:10am

I send my thanks and appreciation out to the beautiful team that presented and hosted the forum Different Strokes. N’zinga, you’re the best for your continued effort in providing health issues and concerns that effect our community. I appreciate you so much for your endless efforts and devotion in providing information that we think we know, not quite sure if we know - the forums sets the record straight.  Education changes things.  N’Zinga thank you for all the things that you do for our community.  We love you!

posted by: Vivian Fripp-Elbert on May 11, 2011  3:32pm

We in the Black community need this type of education program because we need to learn how to care for ourselves naturally.  Adding salt to foods when we have high blood pressure is not helpful and not smart.  It is important that we learn how our bodies work naturally and how to maintain it in good health.  It is good to see the Yale Stroke Center joining with Ms. Shani and OneWorld to educate us.

Thanks to Rev. King and the Wellness Ministry at Christian Tabernacle Church for supporting Ms. Shani and for hosting this valuable program.  21st Century Conversations is by far the best community education program on our public access channel on Citizens TV.  This program needs to be aired multiple times weekly so that people can benefit more fully.  God bless all who do this important work.

posted by: Susan Feldman on May 11, 2011  4:12pm

This program was so illuminating as it demonstrates how we take our health for granted and often are unconscious about our habits, uninformed and misinformed. As a woman I again realized that i need to educate myself on how the body responds to food, exercise, medication, life style and stress and take steps to ensure that I am using the up to date information to enhance my personal well being.  Thanks again, N Zinga for a well documented program.

posted by: OneWorld Progressive Institute, Inc on May 13, 2011  10:58am

OneWorld is responding to the many inquiries we have had about when and where our PEG access TV program “21st Century Conversations” can be seen. For Comcast subscribers who live in Hamden, New Haven and West Haven - the program is always supposed to air on the Education Channel on Citizens TV; that is on Comcast Channel 26 on Sundays at 7-8pm.  If you do not see the program, please call CTV at 203 562-2288.  OneWorld has no control over whether CTV airs the program or not.  We provide CTV with the DVDs for each program and we tell them which program should be aired on which Sunday. Our responsibility ends there.

For Comcast subscribers who live in other nearby towns: East Haven, Branford, North Branford, Northford, and North Haven, “21st Century Conversations” airs on Channel 18 several times weekly.  You should check those stations’ program schedule.  In all of the above towns the programs air at least four times weekly.  For those who are served by Comcast of Clinton and the other 14 towns in that area, the programs air on Channel 34, Thursdays 4:30 & 8PM.  The same program airs twice.
On Comcast- Middletown we air on Channel 15, and on Comcast in Seymour we air on Channel 10, Tues. 7PM. On Cablevision 78 = Tues. 8PM

For AT&T U-Verse customers statewide, “21st Century Conversations” airs every day of the week at various times; you can see different programs every day. Several public access stations carry us on their AT&T network.  You can visit this link to find us through North Haven TV: http://www.nhtv.com/Uverse.html

We at OneWorld greatly appreciate the many postings, emails and phone calls of support we have received particularly over the past month.  We are sorry that so many of you have had difficulty posting comments to this article on the NHI.  It might have something to do with your browser or with the version of software you may have; technology- while very helpful - can also be challenging. We are pleased that you were able to read the article, and we encourage you to take positive actions to maintain health and well-being. 

Please, whenever you can, try to read the OneWorld BLOGS at: http://oneworldpi.org/blog/ They are intended to bring you the best information we have, and to refer you to reliable resources on health literacy, education and civic engagement.  We do these because we know that KNOWLEDGE IS POWER when it is used effectively. Check the OneWorld web site http://www.oneworldpi.org for more extensive information and videos on health and education topics.  Peace and thanks to everyone.

posted by: Beverlyn Anderson on May 13, 2011  1:59pm

Your on going dedication to educate us on paying attention to our health, is a great gift to the community. Being informed, keep us focus on prevention, which will help eliminate future sufferings. Thanks to you and your team.

posted by: Luis Melendez on May 13, 2011  3:04pm

Programs such as this one is the reason why the greater New Haven community needs to fully support the work of OneWorld Progressive Institute, Inc, N’Zinga Shani and all of the volunteers who put so much effort and energy into trying to educate the community.  I think we can all agree that this is an outstanding program and of great benefit to the community.  When we go to the doctors we seldom get the time to ask many questions.  Here N’Zinga got the doctors to come into the community.  This is a good things for all of us.

Thanks to all the participants and those who helped, and thanks to OneWorld, Inc.

posted by: Michelle Fraser on May 13, 2011  4:03pm

It is helpful to see this article about Preventing Strokes and to know that Ms. Shani is on the job teaching us all about the importance of caring for ourselves.  The pastor of this church did a good thing in allowing her to present this program in the community.  We need more churches to be doing this.  Plenty of young people are having strokes due to high blood pressure.  Thanks to everyone for doing this program and putting it out there on the internet for all of us to see it.

posted by: JP on May 15, 2011  10:22am

This article pushes us us to a reality check. We often go through life experiences in a semi-state of being “dead”. we hear, see, taste, etc, however, when the event is over, we don’t remember what we have experienced nor can we act on the information that was shared. When we learn for first time, or, are reminded that “stroke” is the number one cause of death in the United States, everyone of us should take immediate preventive steps for ourselves and for family and other loved ones. For most of us we do not go into action. Why? What can we do to change that? One thing that we can do is to continue to access information like that which is contained in this 21st Century programing. Less than two weeks ago I was stunned when my sister told me that my 14 year old nephew had been admitted to the hospital due to the results of a stroke!!!??? Despite information to the contrary, I keep thinking that stroke is a desease of older people.  The 21st Century Program (stlye, content, community format, ect, ) made me realize that we are in a state of emergency and immediate action must be taken. The information is packeged so that we can take it and act; thanks to all who were involved with this production, 21st Century, Christain Tabernacle, Yale Univ. In particular, I solute the 21st Century community; those making financial contributions, N’Zinga Shani(producer/on-air host, etc), the Board; individual Board members, for all that they do to produce these these hard hitting programs.