As NBA career calls, Stauskas wants to raise awareness of stroke

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Posted: June 2014

Canadian basketball star steps up as Foundation spokesperson

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Nik Stauskas in action (above) and in a photo below (at right) with his grandmother, Irene.

Nik Stauskas was devastated when he learned that his grandmother had suffered a severe stroke.

The college basketball star only found out weeks after it happened. His parents had held back the news, fearing the impact on Nik as he wrapped up his pressure-filled season at the University of Michigan and faced the scrutiny of NBA scouts.

“After my parents told me, it was tough, I was crying,” said Nik, 20, a first round pick in the 2014 NBA draft. Growing up in Mississauga, Ont., he was always close to his grandmother, Irene.

The stroke happened while his grandparents were vacationing in Florida. Irene got up to use the bathroom during the night and suddenly collapsed, dislodging the shower curtain. The noise woke Nik's grandfather who raised the alarm and had his wife rushed to a nearby hospital.

“I’ve seen her a few times since then and it’s hard,” said Nik. Irene has lost much of her ability to speak and most of her cognitive skills. Though there are signs of awareness, her struggle is obvious and painful for him to watch.

Nik’s family is also coping with the fact that she once said she never wanted to live in an unaware state. Although she has been showing improvements, a full recovery is unlikely. But the entire Stauskas family is trying to stay positive.

The event has reinforced the harsh fact that strokes can happen to anyone, at any time. In fact, every seven minutes, heart disease and stroke take a life in Canada. “It’s scary,” Nik said. “Out of nowhere it can come without warning.”

Nik is determined to do everything he can to raise awareness of stroke and its impact, by volunteering to become a Heart and Stroke Foundation national spokesperson.

This event has also served as reminder for him to live a healthy lifestyle and educate himself on how to prevent heart disease and stroke so he can maintain good health long after his basketball career.

  • Protect yourself and your family: Know the signs of stroke and what to do.

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