A race to beat strokes

Detroiter runs a marathon and raises $4,000-plus for research, education
July 2, 2006

Cheryl Herrmann, 41, nurse manager of the stroke unit at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, consults with staff at the hospital last month. Herrmann ran the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in San Diego, Calif., on June 3 to raise funds for the American Stroke Association. Her sister and mother died at 36 and 55, respectively, after suffering strokes.

Cheryl Blanton Herrmann

Cheryl Blanton Herrmann

Stroke symptoms

  • If you have any of these warning signs of a stroke, seek medical help by calling 911 immediately:

    • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
    • Sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding
    • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
    • Sudden difficulty walking, dizziness or loss of balance or coordination
    • Sudden severe headache with no known cause



When Cheryl Herrmann, 41, hit mile 22 of the marathon, her knee gave out.

She refused to stop running.
It wasn't the thrill of winning that gave her the courage to continue.

Herrmann, a Detroit resident, was running on the Detroit Train to End Stroke Team, raising money for the American Stroke Association in the Rock'n' Roll Marathon in San Diego, Calif., on June 3.

Herrmann's sister, Detroit resident Trenice Baker, died of a stroke last fall at age 36. Their mom, Yvonne Baker of Detroit, died in 2002 from a stroke when she was just 55. "At mile 22, I cried out to them, You have to help me get across this finish line, " Herrmann said. "At that very moment, another runner tapped me on the shoulder. "The stranger yelled out, 'You can do it! " Herrmann said. "He ran in front of me and on his jersey it said, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, " she said. "It was so powerful. I dragged myself to the finish line."

She cried when she completed the race. "I was so elated. I was so grateful and overwhelmed," she said. "It's such an emotional experience to think your body could take a physical and spiritual journey like that. There are no words that can describe that for me. "At the marathon, she helped raise more than $4,000 for the American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association.

A family in shock

Herrmann was with Trenice Baker shortly after her fatal stroke left her crumpled on the sidewalk not far from her sister's home. "All three of her children were there," said Herrmann. "They were in shock." Baker died 10 days later. The family donated Baker's organs to save others.

"My brother spoke at her funeral. He said, I know whoever got her heart — theres probably some 60-year-old woman who's doing cartwheels. They probably are thinking, Grandma whats happened? " said Herrmann. "Thats just the way she was. She just enjoyed life."

Today, Herrmann and her brother care for their sisters young children.

The clock ticks

One reason Herrmann ran the marathon was to draw attention to strokes and to help people learn what to do if they feel its symptoms, said Herrmann, who is nurse manager of the stroke unit at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

A treatment that can limit damage caused by strokes is available, but you have to get to the hospital within a few hours for it to be effective, she said.

"The clock starts ticking at the very moment you were last seen normal," she said. "Time loss is brain loss. Maybe you\'re walking through the mall and someone says,  I can't move my left leg.  People around them should call 911."

Detroit native Timika Williams, 32, who now lives in Redford Township, ran the San Diego race in honor of her dad, who died after two strokes and a lifetime of heart disease.

Williams raised $3,946 in the marathon, thanks to donations from coworkers and area businesses.

"If I can help one person and they could help one person, it would be like a domino effect," she said. Ryan Davis, 27, director of the Train to End Stroke Program, said that last year, southeast Michigan runners like Herrmann and Williams provided $366,224 to help fund stroke programs stressing education, research and advocacy. Herrmann said her sister's too-brief life made an impact on those who knew her.

"I was so afraid to go to this marathon — just being away from my kids," she said. "I did it anyway. One thing she taught me was to live life to the fullest."

For more information about strokes, call the American Heart Association at 248-827-4214, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m., or visit http://www.americanheart.org

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