BY AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS

Mary Kay Ballasiotes with her daughter Michelle at Global NCD Alliance Forum

Mary Kay Ballasiotes with her daughter Michelle at Global NCD Alliance Forum.

Michelle Ballasiotes became a stroke survivor before she was born.

When she was still in-utero, it was discovered that she most likely would have hydrocephalus, a build-up of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain.

Her brain surgery at just 3 days old revealed she had suffered a hemorrhagic stroke at some point during the pregnancy. However, the doctors didn’t call it a stroke at the time.

Growing up, Michelle underwent years of weekly physical and occupational therapy and another surgery to strengthen her weakened right side from the stroke.

Today, she is a speaker for her mother’s organization, the International Alliance for Pediatric Stroke, and for the American Heart Association. She plans to study public health in college.

Mary Kay Ballasiotes, left, with AHA representative Diana Vaca McGhie and Michelle Ballasiotes

Mary Kay Ballasiotes, left, with AHA representative Diana Vaca McGhie and Michelle Ballasiotes.

One of their most recent speaking opportunities came in November when the mother-daughter duo was invited by the American Heart Association to attend the first ever Global NCD Alliance Forum, hosted by the Non-Communicable Disease Alliance in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.

Michelle was one of two young adults to share their stories on how non-communicable diseases impact their lives. The NCDA was founded in 2009 with a mission to combat all non-communicable diseases, including: cardiovascular disease; diabetes; cancer; and chronic respiratory disease.

The goal of the global forum is to improve the prevention of non-communicable diseases, increase patient empowerment and improve health systems coverage on more regional and national levels. The first Global NCD Alliance Forum focused on advocacy and accountability, specifically on how to strengthen the response to non-communicable diseases in the context of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Agenda was negotiated by world governments and set the development agenda for the world.

Among the outcomes of the forum was the Sharjah Declaration. Signers promised to work with one another, advocate for change and increase accountability and monitoring.

“We were able to bring pediatric stroke to the global stage, which hasn’t been done before,” said Mary Kay Ballasiotes, who is working to educate and raise awareness of pediatric stroke. “There are just too many people, including healthcare workers and the general public, who are unaware that strokes can happen to babies, children and even before birth.”

The second Global NCD Alliance Forum will take place in 2017.