A family vacation in Cozumel, Mexico gone awry has left a life-long impact on one Cascade family’s lives, leaving them inspired to raise funds and awareness as a result of their experience.
Erin Jelke, now 24 years old, suffered a stroke at 23 while vacationing at their family timeshare in Cozumel in March with her mother, Diane Jelke. Their father had planned to join them but was unable to due to a death in the family.
The stroke had originally left the entire right side of her body paralyzed, but thanks to help from doctors and modern technology at Costamed, a hospital in Cozumel, they were able to reverse the paralysis and, aside from affecting her penmanship, she was able to make a full recovery.
“That whole hospital was very invested in Erin, making sure she got better,” Jelke said. “We are in forever debt to that hospital.”
Jelke called an ambulance and as they were in Mexico, the medical professionals did not speak English. She said that neighbors had advised her to go to the hospital, Costamed, as it is contracted by all the cruise lines throughout the Caribbean.
After some arguing, Jelke finally convinced ambulance personnel to take her daughter to the hospital she requested. All the doctors at Costamed are trained in America and speak English, which made it easier for Jelke to communicate.
Erin Jelke remained in the hospital in Cozumel for four days. When she returned to the United States, she had two more procedures at the Fred and Lena Meijer Heart Center.
Jelke’s mother felt so thankful for the medical attention they received in Mexico, she wanted to do something to give back.
Originally, Jelke and her daughter were planning to attend a stroke walk in Cincinnati and attempted to get their entire family involved.
As person by person dropped out of going, Jelke made the decision to bring the walk to them for the inaugural “Erin’s Walk in the Park.”
The 5K walk took place at Cascade Park on Sunday, Sept. 17. Jelke spent about six weeks planning the event and the family was able to bring in sponsors, donors and more than 100 participants in the walk.
“It meant a lot to us to see the people who all came out,” Jelke said.
The Jelkes were able to raise nearly $2,600 for the National Stroke Association but more importantly for Diane Jelke, they were able to raise awareness about the symptoms of a stroke.
“I sat across from her, I watched her have a stroke,” Jelke said. “My first thought was ‘That’s what someone looks like when they’re having a stroke.’ My second thought was ‘She’s 23, she can’t be having a stroke.'”
Jelke stressed that despite the fact that her daughter was an athlete and the “picture of health,” anyone can fall victim to a stroke.
“This is something that’s really important…People need to know the symptoms,” she said.
Jelke hopes to host another walk next year and plans to visit Costamed in December with her daughter to bring them shirts from the walk with the hospital’s name on the back.