Unexpected stroke prompts small business owner to get proactive about health

Unexpected stroke prompts small business owner to get proactive about health

PASCAGOULA, Miss. (WLOX) - A Pascagoula small business owner is fighting back after she suffered an unexpected stroke.

Her battle has prompted the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce to join forces with Singing River Health System to offer free health screenings.

Owning a small business can be stressful and demanding, but a stroke was the last thing wife and mom Shannon Van Duijvendijk expected to happen to her, especially at age 43.

Now she’s spreading the word to help prevent this from happening to others.

Shannon Van Duijvendijk is starting to enjoy her life again running her small business, Southern Girls Like Big Bows in downtown Pascagoula, while raising her two young children. Just two short months ago, she didn’t know if that would be possible.

“The first thing that goes through your head when something like this happens is am I going to see my kids again?” she said.

Her nightmare started two months ago on Sept. 8.

“I was getting in bed and my eyes were burning, I got up to try to go to the bathroom, and I couldn’t walk,” she remembered.

Her pulse was racing too, and her husband called 911.

“He knew in his heart and I knew in my heart something was wrong, and I attribute that to God.”

They never imagined she would have a stroke. Up until that point, she didn’t have any symptoms other than some tiredness. Turns out, she had a serious high blood pressure issue she never knew about.

“When the EMT got here my blood pressure was 275/145. It was crazy high,” she said.

Van Duijvendijk was in ICU for five days, and then her recovery began. She’s thankful for how far she has come.

“My hands and fine motor skills are better Pretty much everything is gone. I had to walk with assistance, used a walker for a while. I had double vision, pretty much most of that cleared up,” she said.

Her children and husband are thankful, too.

“Their prayers went from ‘please save Mommy’ to praying and thanking God that I’m better,” Van Duijvendijk said.

She admits that with her busy work schedule and taking care of the kids, seeing a doctor on a regular basis wasn’t a priority.

“Just a little bit of preventive care, going to the doctor more often where they would’ve caught my high blood pressure and could’ve prevented this and stopped it from happening," she said.

Now she wants to make sure others get their blood pressure checked and stay on top of their health.

“If I can be a part of saving even one person, that’s huge.”

In the meantime, she’s enjoying every moment with her family.

“Being grateful I was there for events between the stroke and now. Halloween, different events at my kids’ school, I’m so grateful to be able to share with them,” she said.

Be sure to know your numbers. Singing River Health System will provide free health screenings for Chamber members who are small business owners and their employees from 7 – 11 a.m. Nov. 8 at the Jackson County Chamber office in Pascagoula.

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