Amber Poliquin was a healthy 39-year-old ultra runner when her whole world changed.
She says, “if you had told me last year, that I would lose my left peripheral vision to a stroke, I would not have believed you.”
On Sunday, I joined about 20 other runners from Edmonton, Calgary and Camrose for a Blackfoot Ultra training run at the Islet Staging Area, east of Sherwood Park.
While race organizers hosted the fun run to give runners a preview of one 25K loop, it was also an opportunity to hear about Poliquin’s story and donate to stroke research.
I won’t go into the nitty gritty about what happened to Poliquin (because I am not a medical doctor and I would likely screw something up.) but I will break it down for you.
Last August, Poliquin was running errands when everything went black. Her husband had her to the hospital within 15 minutes but it wasn’t until the next day that doctors confirmed she had a stroke on her right occipital lobe (one of the four lobes of the cerebral cortex). She had an atypical presentation of stroke – without the usual symptoms of slurred speech and droopy face etc.
Doctors said she had a 10 per cent chance of fully recovering her left peripheral vision.
Like most ultra runners, Poliquin was a fighter who was not about to give up so easily.
She delved into her recovery – with the support of her family and friends, which brings us today, almost a year after she was sidelined.
Today Poliquin has gained 70 per cent of her visual field back but has permanent loss of the remaining 30 per cent of her left visual field.
The experience, Poliquin writes on her University Hospital Foundation fundraising page, got her into thinking about helping other patients and their families.
“Many of us have family members who have had a stroke,” she says. “We’ve seen the impact and how devastating it can be.”
The week before her stroke, Poliquin pulled out of the Fat Dog 120-miler in the third leg because of an injury.
“I thought there just has to be a way to give back,” said Poliquin on Thursday. “There’s got to be a way that we could use the positives of running to try and fundraise for (the hospital).”
Her goal is to raise $1,000 per mile of the 120-mile race. The money will go towards the development of a rapid blood test for stroke.
“This is not just for Alberta,” she said. “This could be for across Canada, worldwide if it works. It would be incredible because stroke is so hard for patients and even harder on the families.”
Poliquin said the reality is stroke does not happen only to older Canadians. It can affect to anyone at any age even children.
“Only five per cent of strokes are diagnosed in a timely manner,” she said. “The longer time between diagnosis and treatment, the more chance of disability or death.”
Raise your hand if you know someone who has had a stroke or maybe you had one yourself.
I think this is a cause we can all get behind.