Just as the New Year (2023) kicked off, Vice President Kamala Harris swore in seven new U.S. Senators, including five Republicans and two Democrats. Pennsylvania’s John Fetterman, a Democrat, is the only new senator to have flipped party control of his seat, following a highly-publicized win over his Republican opponent, Dr. Mehmet Oz. During the campaign, Fetterman stressed his “five-point plan to fix our economy and hold Washington accountable.” But as his term begins, his wife, Gisele Barreto Fetterman, is prioritizing another point: stroke awareness.
In May 2022, just months prior to the mid-term election, Fetterman suffered a stroke. The stroke occurred due to a clot caused by atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart rhythm, which he was diagnosed with years earlier.
A stroke, also referred to as a brain attack, is a leading cause of disability in the U.S.; and it ranks as the fifth leading cause of death. Yet, with the support of his physicians, Fetterman assured voters that the stroke had not caused permanent cognitive damage that would impede his ability to serve in the Senate.
The Fetterman Plan
Fetterman outlined a five-point plan to (1) make more stuff in America, (2) cut taxes for working people, (3) ban Congress from trading stocks, (4) slash “out of pocket” health care costs and (5) end immoral price gouging. Time will tell what progress the father of three will make on these initiatives during his term. Meanwhile, his wife Gisele recently debuted a campaign of her own, in partnership with Get Ahead of Stroke®.
Gisele, who married the politician in 2008, serves as a spokesperson in the newly-released public service announcement (PSA) urging people to learn the signs of stroke and to call 9-1-1 immediately upon symptom onset.
This isn’t her first engagement with activism. Born in Brazil, Gisele became a U.S. citizen in 2009 and, ever since, has dedicated herself to helping others. Some of her charitable focus efforts have surrounded nutrition, food equity and helping residents meet basic needs. Plus, Gisele previously noted her own connection to the disability community when, in 2020, she revealed she had chronic back pain.
Leading Stroke Awareness
The Get Ahead of Stroke campaign was founded by the Society of NeuroInterventional Surgery (SNIS). According to this source, nearly two million brain cells die every minute a stroke goes untreated, which is why seeking immediate care is vital.
It was Gisele that noticed the warning signs at the time of her husband’s stroke. At her urging, he quickly sought medical care and benefited from a lifesaving surgery called thrombectomy, a minimally-invasive procedure that restores blood flow to the brain. It is performed for the most serious strokes — known as emergent large vessel occlusions (ELVOs) — by specialized stroke surgeons and their teams. Studies show that stroke patients who receive this lifesaving therapy have a greater chance of being free of disability or death following their brain attack. Fetterman’s surgery was performed by neurointerventionalist Sudhakar R. Satti, MD, who joins Gisele in the PSA to further emphasize the importance of prompt intervention.
Gisele says her family is now focused on advancing awareness of stroke warning signs. “What we’ve learned is incredible,” she says in the new video of her husband’s medical emergency, “and I hope sharing it will help you or someone you love.”
“Research shows that people often ignore stroke symptoms or drive to the hospital themselves, both of which can have devastating consequences. We must continue to educate the public on the signs of stroke and the importance of calling emergency services immediately. It truly can mean the difference between death or severe disability versus a quick recovery,” said J Mocco, MD, MS, President of SNIS.
Know the Signs of a Stroke
Use the “BE FAST” acronym to assess stroke symptoms in yourself or another:
B – loss of balance
E – loss of or blurry eyesight
F – facial drooping
A – arm weakness
S – speech difficulty
T – time to call 9-1-1 if symptoms are identified. Time is of the essence!
Founded in 2016, the Get Ahead of Stroke campaign is working to improve stroke care state-by-state through policy changes that will ensure severe stroke patients get the level of care they need to survive and thrive. Through its public awareness and advocacy activities, the campaign has helped improve stroke systems across the country, benefiting thousands of patients. To learn more, visit GetAheadOfStroke.org/Call911.