Erin Russell of Las Vegas had a stroke at the age of 31 and is now helping other young survivors rebuild their lives. She explains, “‘Thirtysomething’ stroke survivors are becoming more and more common. Stroke strikes at any age and more young adults find themselves in my situation. While coping with the shock of having a stroke, younger survivors may be dealing with relationships, careers and raising kids.”
Erin was director of legislative affairs for a large law firm when she had a stroke two years ago. She and her husband Trevor Hayes had recently celebrated their first wedding anniversary and she was working on her Ph.D. in public affairs.
Erin remembers feeling isolated and confused when hospitalized after her stroke. “As my condition improved I became eager to help other people through such a traumatic experience.” She attended a stroke support group but found she did not have much in common with the other survivors or topics discussed. “While I was welcomed into the group, everyone was older and faced different challenges,” she explains. “I finally linked up with a couple of other young survivors and we have now started another support group that is focused towards the younger population. I feel fortunate to have had Trevor by my side through my recovery,” she adds. They are pictured with their Golden Retriever, Riley.
A turning point in her recovery was the 2009 Las Vegas Heart Walk. “I had just been out of the hospital a few weeks and my husband and father thought it would be a good idea to get out and do something…so they took me to the Walk. It was great because I met other stroke survivors and staff and volunteers from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association office. My involvement with the organization took off from there.” She became involved in ShareGivers, a group of survivors who visit those hospitalized after having a stroke. “It has turned into a real passion of mine,” she explains. “I try to be a friendly face and give encouragement. I want to help others understand there is life after stroke.”
For Erin that has included receiving her Ph.D. in May and advancing her career in government affairs. She has also put her professional expertise to work for the American Stroke Association, testifying at legislative hearings as a stroke survivor and helping to raise stroke awareness – especially in younger people.
Erin concludes, “Raising awareness about stroke is a lifetime goal that I am committed to.”