A song not only can tell a story, but send a moving message to the masses. As Ron Daise will sing at the inaugural YoungStroke conference, which opens for three days Saturday (June 27-29) in Jacksonville, Fla., “People Gotta Know.”
The multi-award-winning singer, songwriter and performer made this recording about stroke awareness and prevention an extracurricular project outside of his day job as vice president for creative education at Brookgreen Gardens, and to make a difference for the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, which runs along the Atlantic coast from Wilmington, N.C., south to Jacksonville (www.gullahgeecheecorridor.org).
Amy Edmunds of Conway, also a health sciences lecturer at Coastal Carolina University and the founder and chief executive of YoungStroke Inc., reiterates that this condition, when blood flow to a part of the brain stops, can affect anyone ages 18 to 65. She also shared the alarming statistic that 58.5 percent of doctor-diagnosed strokes in 2013 in South Carolina were for people younger than 65 – up from 50 percent in 2009, when the national average was 34 percent.
Daise reflected on his contribution to getting the word out.
Question | In the 2 minutes and 51 seconds of this song, with its upbeat piano introduction and the ivories’ ending signature framing the work of this piece, how easily did the lyrics pour from your heart, meshed with the composition and production by Travis Winbush? Was is a star that fell on your lap?
Answer | I hear a rhythm, and from the rhythm come the lyrics. … I didn’t write the music, but I have a melody line. … It happened one day, and then it continued. …
I had been having a conversation with Amy Edmunds. … She had met with me about my participating in this upcoming YoungStroke conference, and part of the conversation was, “Some people do not know what young stroke looks like. Well, it could look like you. Uh-huh, it could look like me. … ” That shows up in the chorus. …
It was germinating for a while. I think our conversation was in November …, but it was on New Year’s Day that it fell from the sky.
Q. | With your career built from talent and innovation in creativity, education and articulation, what extra effort goes into crafting a song, a lasting legacy that will be played over and over, and possibly for generations to come?
A. | Developing a hook that someone will be interested in developing for the content of the songs, the telling of a story: That’s how the verses fell into place. This shows scenarios, and for the people who are experiencing strokes, or people witnessing family and close friends with stroke, how this might be something they should be aware of.
Q. | How did having your wife of almost 30 years, Natalie, speak her part later in the song add another layer of depth in the devotion to this cause for health awareness?
A. | It needed two voices, because I cannot be singing this spoken piece in addition to my singing the chorus, because it might be confusing. So I thought, I would like my wife to do this.
Q. | How did you first encounter the reality of young stroke affecting folks as young as 18, right here along the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor and any points beyond where this message needs to resonate?
A. | The awareness of stroke in young adults came from Amy Edmunds, at the time when I was chairman of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission. … At one of our meetings, she spoke about stroke affecting so many youth, how it was an international health concern, and how it’s particularly relevant for younger adults within the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor. …
For a long time, it was thought that … if you’re older than 65 that those are the persons who would be affected by a stroke. … There’s a gentleman from my church who had a stroke earlier this year, and he is not over 65.
Edmunds voiced her enthusiasm for the conference next weekend, especially with the endorsement by the World Stroke Organization and the Mayo Clinic as a sponsor, and guest speakers traveling from Sweden, Canada and the United Kingdom. She also said Daise plays a vital role with “People Gotta Know” in this “creative health messaging” about awareness in steps to prevent a stroke.
Q. | How did this cause become a passion for you?
A. | I was exposed to this reality Jan. 11, 2002, when I experienced a stroke at the age of 45. … For me, I had a healthy lifestyle, was running 5K races, and no family history of stroke. My stroke was a little unusual in that I cared about my health. … After a weeklong hospital stay, I left and I was able to walk away. … I did not have diabetes, hypertension or any issue of obesity, and my prognosis was very good. That was the exception. That’s part of my message, that we need to take care of ourselves, so that when medical crises occur, like me, you will be able to walk into the hospital, and walk out.
Q. | How does this debut conference reflect the outreach for worldwide participation?
A. | This issue of stroke among young adults is not just a South Carolina or American problem; it’s really an issue of global prevalence, and that’s why we were able to attract these international people. We are discussing this in a much broader context than what you generally think about with strokes. It’s much more than a medical diagnosis, and it affects the community, with a large percentage of adults who are disabled, and young adults who cannot live independently. You look at how that imposes on the community and think about the absence of resources for helping them.
Q. | What other directions will this awareness effort take?
A. | Someone 33 to 43 with a stroke is quite a different generation and lifestyle from someone 74 to 83, because younger adults are raising children, or they’re still in school and at the start of their career. How they pay for their rehabilitation becomes a real issue; they don’t qualify for Medicare. It’s a whole change of worlds when you have to pay for rehab out of pocket. These are issues that are very unique to young adults.
Q. | So, your firsthand experience and these pressing subjects led to your establishing YoungStroke?
A. | It was organized in 2005. We have to have this conversation. I am in – and there are so very much of – a first generation of young stroke survivors, and I’m motivated to go forward because I know the generation of children behind me might be diagnosed with Type 2 (adult onset) diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure. They are the second generation of young stroke waiting to happen.
HEAR IT, BUY IT
What | “People Gotta Know” by Ron Daise
About | Awareness of strokes affecting people ages 18 to 65, especially in the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor (www.gullahgeecheecorridor.org)
Where | cdbaby.com/cd/ronalddaise5
How much | Downloadable for 99 cents
More information | From YoungStroke Inc.:
▪ P.O. Box 692, Conway, S.C. 29528