Amy Olfene Speaks at American Heart Association Go Red for Women Luncheon

Drummond Woodsum Attorney, Amy Olfene, speaks at the 2017 American Heart Association Go Red for Women Luncheon in Portland, Maine, on March 7th. As a stroke survivor, Amy shared her personal story to raise awareness and educate others about the signs, symptoms, and effects of strokes in young adults. Typically viewed as a condition that afflicts older people, ten percent of strokes that occur in the U.S. each year strike adults under the age of 45, and strokes among young people – especially young women – have risen dramatically in the past 20 years.

Ten months ago, at the age of 32, Amy went to work not realizing that the symptoms she had been experiencing for the past 48 hours had been signs of a stroke. She was suffering from a headache, felt tired, and was having trouble communicating. She dismissed the symptoms as that of stress or a migraine. Once at work, she realized she could not read, write, or speak. When she began to lose feeling on her right side, she decided to ask for help. A quick-thinking colleague recognized that Amy needed immediate attention and called 911.

Today, Amy is fully recovered. While thankful to be back to her normal routine, her terrifying ordeal and recovery proved a difficult journey. “I learned to accept, what all young stroke survivors must learn to accept, that pre-stroke normal and post-stroke normal are not, and will likely never be, the same.”

In an excerpt from Amy’s speech, she reflected on her story of survival and the advocacy still needed to raise awareness. “Today I was asked to speak publicly but about a very personal experience, something I have shared with very few. In fact, today, the American Heart Association challenges us all by asking us to identify the �why’ behind our presence here today, our passion and support for the work that the American Heart and Stroke Associations do to improve lives, prevent heart disease and stroke, and advance science, medicine, and policy. My �whys’ are my friends, family, colleagues, clients, and all the healthy, strong, and determined women who walk around with no knowledge of their own risk factors, no understanding of the signs and symptoms of a stroke, or of the ways to prevent those risk factors from leading to a life-threatening event.”

“Sharing my story with 640 people was neither comfortable nor easy,” Amy says, “but it provided an opportunity to use my experience to help educate others, reduce the stigma surrounding stroke, and prevent it from happening someone else. It’s an honor to be part of an effort to improve and save lives, and I am thankful to the Heart and Stroke Associations for inviting me to be a part of their amazing Go Red for Women event.”

Amy’s live appeal helped to generate $27,000 in donations to the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association in Maine, which raised nearly $350,000 at the annual luncheon program.