Edwards couple hope to build stroke awareness | VailDaily.com

Edwards couple hope to build stroke awareness

NWS Unland's KA 1-22-11

EDWARDS, Colorado – John and Linda Unland are determined to help others learn about, or live with the after-effects of, strokes. But they need some partners.

The Unlands, who live in Homestead, had their lives changed after John suffered a stroke in 2007. John was fortunate. He got a hospital quickly, and received drugs that lessened the stroke’s effects.

John has re-learned how to walk, talk and work as a corporate marketing specialist. He finished the New York Marathon in the fall of 2010. “I just wanted to show other people that you can do other things,” he said.

But John has lost all his peripheral vision, and all the vision on his left side. He can’t drive or type any more, and most painfully, can no longer play the piano. And the couple’s home is littered with sticky notes reminding John of various tasks, from finishing a report to taking medicine.

Linda’s life has changed, too, of course. Now she’s both a life partner and care giver, and has learned to help with John’s business.

But the couple gets by, even living a new life when no two days are identical. These days, the Unlands are thinking more about something she said to him in the weeks following his stroke – “Now we have to figure out why you lived.”

The answer is becoming clear – John and Linda should be helping others learn about strokes.

“We really don’t need any more to do – every day is a lot,” Linda said. “But we’re not giving anything to anyone.”

So the Unlands want to help put together a local stroke awareness group. But they need help from people including fellow survivors and medical professionals. That’s why they’re talking now.

“We should be doing this at some level, but we’re not sure what to do,” Linda said.

However the stroke awareness group evolves, the Unlands will bring a lot of talent and information to the party.

Unland’s company has won national awards for advertising campaigns, and the company is still involved in work for NASA and DuPont.

And the couple has plenty of information about strokes in general. John’s stroke was random – he was in good health, and medical exams have indicated that he didn’t have any conditions that might have predicted he’d be vulnerable to one.

“But 90 percent of strokes could be prevented,” John said. Most, he said, can be headed off with many of the same tactics urged to prevent heart disease – with diet and exercise topping the list.

Talk to John, and you’ll hear plenty of other facts – strokes are the third-biggest medical killer in this country, behind heart disease and cancer, and the top disabling disease in the country. Strokes also cost the American workforce an estimated $50 billion per year in lost productivity.

Those are the kinds of things the Unlands want people to know about.

They also hope to work with local hospitals in some way to help ensure people with strokes get the critical early care they need to survive and recover as much as possible.

“The important thing is to hit these small communities,” John said. “People need to know the signs and know where to go and what to do.”

And the Unlands made it clear that while they’d like to help start a group, they certainly don’t need to lead it.

“This is not about me,” John said. “We’re just trying to prevent this in other people, and help their care-givers.”

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or smiller@vaildaily.com.

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