Family’s mission of awareness after losing loved one saves another mom’s life

DENVER -- May is National Stroke Awareness Month, and a couple of local moms have an incredible story to share. Rachel Caple says she survived a stroke because of a video tribute to her friend's first husband who died of a massive heart attack last year.

Brenda King's first husband, Mark, suffered a fatal heart attack while on a fishing trip with his sons last year. She was asked to share her story in a video tribute produced for the Denver Heart Ball, a fundraiser for the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association. Their goal was to raise awareness about the symptoms of heart disease and stroke. Little did anyone realize their efforts would pay off the very next day.

Rachel Caple said she watched the video, and paid close attention because her son grew up playing hockey with Mark and Brenda's boys, who spoke about the loss of their father. Rachel said the next morning, as she was getting ready for work, she knew something was wrong.

"I had some tingling. I felt sick, just not right is the only way I can explain it."

She immediately thought of the video tribute to Mark. "I remember them specifically talking about symptoms Mark had and just kind of brushed off. His elbow started bothering him. I just thought this could be that. I’m home alone, getting ready for work. I need to make a decision. Either I’m going to the hospital or I’m going to work. All I could hear is those boys in my head and how the thought of my boys having to go through losing a parent was enough to make me stop at that ER."

Fortunately, Rachel made it to the hospital, where doctors immediately gave her an anticoagulant, did and MRI and EKG.

Doctors told her she had suffered a stroke. She was in shock. She said, "I’m 41, so not in my 20s. I'm not old by any means. That’s the misconception, my grandmother has strokes. We found out medications mixed together can lead to a stroke. Anytime you get a check up, they are important, ask the questions, what puts me at risk, what signs should I be looking for?"

The next day, she sent a text to Brenda.

It said, "Brenda-- I just wanted to let you know that I had a stroke yesterday morning. I was getting ready for work and my face was numb and tingly and my vision seemed off. My first instinct was to completely blow it off and head to work. I had watched the video your boys were in speaking about Mark and his experience and it triggered something which led me to drive to the ER. (No I probably shouldn't have been driving). Anyway, they immediately checked me in and gave me medication to stop clotting. They did an MRI which is where they saw the clot. They said if I would have driven to work I could have died on the road or at work. So, I don't mean to bring up any sad feelings for you or the boys and although it was not a heart attack, I wouldn't have gone to the ER if I hadn't seen the video. I thought you and the boys should know. Love you."

Brenda King was stunned. "The fact we were able to save her life, and her children don’t have to live without their parent is phenomenal. Colton and Michael miss their father every single day."

She knows their mission is to inform others about the symptoms of heart disease and stroke. "You don’t get this affirmation this quickly. You don’t always get that soon of affirmation you are doing the right thing no matter how difficult it is. When you have an incident much like Rachel's anything unusual regarding your body, you have to pay attention to it. It’s a bittersweet mission, still an accomplished mission."

Rachel agrees. "The loss of Mark was tragic. But from his loss, that’s why I’m living."

Warning signs of a stroke according to the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing or blurred vision in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

Signs you may be having a heart attack:

  • Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach
  • Shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort
  • Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or light-headedness.

Call 911 immediately. Try to stay as calm as possible and take slow, deep breaths while you wait for emergency responders.