On Friday, Feb. 1, 2019, I had a stroke that initially left me unable to move my left side. It was my second of four photography assignments for the day. I was scheduled to work past 11 p.m. that night. It took a few years to build up the repeat clientele that I could depend on to build a modern-day photography business. All of that came to a crashing halt when I sat down at the golf course at JW Marriott Turnberry Resort and Spa. I was capturing images for the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) at its convention-planning forum in Aventura.
Prior to the NABJ assignment, I was in Liberty City at the Sandrell Rivers Theater, shooting a public event for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. Fast forward to Turnberry. After getting all of the required photos, I sat down in a chair that had been brought out for the photo shoot. When I sat down my left side went limp. Sarah Glover, then-NABJ president, immediately noticed the change in my body and recognized the symptoms of a stroke. She sprang into action, asking if a doctor was present, and sure enough a physician happen to be on the golf course. Lucky for me. He came over and observed me for a few minutes and confirmed that I was exhibiting signs of a stroke. Now, I recall none of this. My NABJ friends have recounted the story and shared the events of the day with me and my wife, Tammy.
An ambulance was immediately dispatched, and I was rushed to Aventura Hospital, a certified comprehensive stroke center - one of three in Miami-Dade County. God was intervening, placing me across the street, within five minutes, from a hospital certified to treat stroke patients. That was not by accident. The doctors told Tammy and I that I had suffered an ischemic stroke. When I went into the treatment room, I could not move my left side; when I left the treatment room, I raised both arms and gave a thumbs up to my wife and family. I was then taken to intensive care where the doctors and nurses monitored my progress and recovery around the clock. It had been less than two hours since the stroke.
I was very fortunate – no, I was blessed. I am told that if you receive treatment within the critical first four hours of a stroke, you have a greater chance of survival and you can still have a quality of life. Time is of the essence.
When I made the decision to become a photographer, I weighed 360 pounds. Six years ago, I lost 140 pounds and kept it off. I was intentional about lifestyle changes – no alcohol, better diet and more exercise. Like millions of Americans, my biggest problem was high blood pressure that was being treated with medication. But this life-altering experience also gave me the right perspective when it comes to work-life balance. I literally almost worked myself to death.
Feb. 1, 2019 was a scary day but scared me into doing things differently. I have learned how to rest, and to listen to my body. Now more than seven months later, I am living, working, and enjoying life. I am blessed to be alive.
On Aug. 11, 2019, I had an opportunity to publicly thank Glover for making sure I received the care I needed in front of the NABJ Gala audience at the JW Marriott in Aventura.