Four months ago, Raquel Clement says she fell on the floor at work and had a stroke. The entire left side of her body was numb, and she spent 5 days in the hospital. "I didn't feel anything, I didn't have any announcement that something was happening, no chest pains or headaches, it was sudden," Clement said.
Clement walked five miles with 1,500 other people for the American Heart Association's annual Heart Walk at California State University of Bakersfield Saturday.
"I'm still recovering. A little bit of my muscles are not 100 percent so it's been a road of therapy for my leg and my arm, but I'm doing good," said Clement.
Heidi Barker and her team called "Team Baby Reid" walked for 20-month-old baby Reid Peterson, who had open-heart surgery a few months after he was born. "I think it's great that we can get so many people out here," Barker said, "I think it brings awareness to heart disease and congenital heart defects, and it makes people more aware of just how many families and people are affected by it."
David Piuser, 29, has been taking part in the heart walk for more than a decade. He received a heart transplant when he was a senior in high school. "It wasn't easy. I think it was hardest on my parents," Piuser said, "Now that I have two daughters myself, I couldn't imagine anything like that happening to them."
Walkers did the Zumba workout and were able to get their blood pressure and cholesterol checked at the walk's health screening tent.
"The Heart Walk is an opportunity for the community to come out an do a heart healthy activity together," said Julie Liebel the executive director of Kern County’s American Heart Association. "We had a lot of people learning about cardiovascular disease and what they can do to prevent it," said Liebel.
17's Tami Mlcoch emceed the walk. So far, teams have raised $140,000 to benefit research and treatment of stroke and heart disease. Team Chevron raised the most money at $14,000.
Heart disease survivor Sacha Lincoln was the Team Chevron Captain and she raised more than $3,000. "As you can see with all the red hats, survivors range from newborns to people 80 years old," said Lincoln. "People need to realize that no matter their age, race, or ethnicity, no one is excluded from heart disease."
Clement said she has done the walk for four years, but this year was her first time walking as a survivor.
"It's been very emotional for me. To see so many people supporting us and supporting the search for better medical assistance for people, it's really emotional. I was crying when I crossed the finish line," Clement said.
If you want to learn more about stroke and heart disease prevention, you can call the American Heart Association of Kern County at 661-327-1173.