Stroke Story


My mom, Marshelle Samuels, and I at Oak Park and River Forest High School.

Stroke Story

In 2009, I performed in my third Oak Park and River Forest High School Spoken Word showcase a few months before graduation. A week later, my mom was hospitalized due to a near-fatal stroke triggered by work-related stress. She was a human resources professional.

My mom was a single parent raising two boys while working in Human Resources for 16 years. It was a very stressful job and she worked many long hours. One day she started having severe headaches which would not go away. She thought is was just stress from work, but several months later she had a massive stroke which almost ended her life. My mom was 52 years old at the time.

The National Stroke Association defines a stroke as “a brain attack. It can happen to anyone at any time. It occurs when blood flow to an area of the brain is cut off. When this happens, brain cells are deprived of oxygen and begin to die. When brain cells die during a stroke, abilities controlled by that area of the brain such as memory and muscle control are lost.”

Understanding how stress impacts our ability to communicate and perform at our best, I decided to combine the experience of my mom’s stroke, being a caretaker, and spoken word poetry to create Impact Mākars. Check out my mom’s story below.

After The Stroke 

Learning how to be a caretaker at 18 years old and helping my mom with the physical therapy process was a humbling experience for me and my brother. Since her stroke, my mom has played a significant role as a stroke champion. She served as a co-facilitator for the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences stroke support group and is a peer mentor for brain injury patients. In addition, she served as a co-facilitator of the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program, a Stanford University administered program through UI Health Hospital. My mom is also an advocate for early stroke detection and has been invited to share her stroke journey with college students who are studying to become physical therapists. 

Pictured at Windy City LIVE from left to right: Harry (another stroke champion), me, my mom, Dr. Charbel (UI Health’s neurological expert), and Dr. Charbel’s wife. My mom and Dr. Charbel were interviewed about her stroke story and stroke awareness month, which is May.

May is National Stroke Awareness Month. To learn how to spot the early warning signs of a stroke, check out the Windy City interview featuring my mom and Dr. Charbel.

My vision is to re-structure Impact Mākars into a social enterprise to open up Mākar Stadium, a cross-interdisciplinary performing arts training facility focused on transferable communication skill development for career advancement. Artists are equipped with the skills needed to shift disengaged work environments into engaging spaces where employees can be themselves without sacrificing their identity or peace of mind for a paycheck.

Check Out Isaiah’s Story Here