Crowley named chair for Go Red for Women campaign
By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Shrewsbury – Imagine a perfect weekend in New York City with tickets to one of the hottest shows in town – “Dear Evan Hansen” and, after weeks of meticulous planning, you take your seats and just as the theater lights are dimmed, you have a stroke.
For Shrewsbury resident Christina Crowley, that is exactly what happened on Sept. 30, 2017. And now she is using her experience to help others as the recently named 2021 chair of the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Go Red for Women campaign – Boston, a national initiative to increase women’s cardiovascular health awareness.
A night when everything changed
Crowley, who was then a 44-year-old mother of four, was preparing to enjoy the show with her older sister, her 16-year-old daughter and 15-year-old niece, when everything changed.
At the theater, she turned to her sister and tried to speak but nothing came out of her mouth. She could not see out of her right eye and her right hand clenched and became numb.
At intermission, she shared what was happening with her sister who said they should immediately go to a hospital. Crowley demurred, because she didn’t “want to be a bother” and they had gone to great lengths and expense to get the tickets.
After the show Crowley did get to a hospital where a CAT scan revealed she’d had a stroke which was caused by an unknown congenital heart defect. She had a hole, a patent foramen ovale (PFO), in her heart.
She had surgery to correct the defect, but she had difficulties enduring afterwards.
A difficult recovery but support from colleagues
With a thriving career as a senior vice president, Voice of Customer & License Management Services at Dell Technologies, she said that when she went back to work, she couldn’t make it through the day without having debilitating headaches.
She described having massive pressure “brain pain” in her head that forced her into bed by 8 p.m. every evening. She would sleep until 7 a.m. the next morning just to be able to go to work.
She credits her coworkers at Dell for getting her through.
“I had this tremendous support system of team members and colleagues that protected me 100 percent,” she said.
“I’m talking about this now because I believe there is opportunity to educate and at least make people aware of stroke signs and the fact that if you go to the hospital immediately there are medications that can actually reverse the stroke signs and symptoms and reverse the process,” she shared.
Supporting youth with STEM programs
As chair of the Go Red campaign, she will help raise awareness and understanding of the work of the AHA, its research (particularly as it pertains to women’s cardiovascular health) and fundraising.
“We have partnered with the American Heart Association and my team at Dell, to focus on a STEM enrichment program for high school girls in the city of Boston,” Crowley said. “How do we take the talents that we have at Dell Technologies, which is a STEM Technology company, and use them to get girls interested in STEM-related topics?”
As such, they are developing an Innovator Challenge program where participating students will try to solve a public health problem with a STEM-based solution.
Crowley estimates that she is about 90 percent back to her former self. However, with some lingering numbness in her hand and difficulty remembering words, she acknowledged, “I am incredibly lucky, I know that, and I don’t take it for granted.”
For more information about AHA Go Red for Women click here.