Father & son who suffered strokes within 2 years of each other work to raise awareness

The men and Baptist Health teamed up to help people know the signs of stroke

Stroke is the number one cause of disability, and anyone can have one at any age. News4Jax's Amanda DeVoe spoke with a father and son who both had a stroke within two years of each other.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jeff and Larry Critzer said it’s a club that no one wants to join: having a stroke. They spoke with News4JAX along with one of their doctors, so people know the signs and how life can change without a moment’s notice.

Jeff Critzer said it all started with an unbearable headache while he was at work in January 2020.

“I was trying to compose an email and I couldn’t,” Jeff said. “I literally couldn’t compose a sentence together when I typed the email. My coworker said, ‘You gotta get out of here. Something’s going on with you.’”

Little did he know, he was having a stroke.

“I drove myself to the urgent care. My wife met me there. They said, ‘Your blood pressure’s high. We think you’re having a stroke. You need to go to the emergency room right away,’” he said.

A Type 2 diabetic who stayed on top of his health for the most part, Jeff was shocked to be in this situation at just 43 years old.

“I would have never thought it was a stroke. Being so young. I was in relatively good shape. Come to find out it was a stroke and it scared me to death,” Jeff said.

Fast forward nearly two years later.

Jeff’s parents were starting their morning one day.

Jeff’s mother noticed something was off with his father, Larry, after asking him a question.

“She come back in and she said, ‘If you don’t answer me, I’m gonna call 911,’” Larry said. “‘You’re garbling your words.’ I’m like, ‘I’m not garbling my words.’ I’m thinking all this, but that’s what I was doing.”

Turns out Larry, who’s also a Type 2 diabetic and has some heart issues, was having a stroke, too.

“I can remember the young lady, the paramedic, she told the driver, ‘Turn on the lights and the sirens. We gotta go,’” Larry said.

Dr. Nima Aghaebrahim treated Larry and said family history is one of several risk factors when it comes to strokes.

“When Larry had a stroke, thanks to his son, his wife recognized the signs and symptoms. They called 911,” said Aghaebrahim with Baptist Health.

However, he stresses that strokes don’t discriminate.

“Stroke happens all of a sudden and it can happen to anyone,” he said. “Every minute that passes for example 2 million neurons die. So, when a stroke happens, we don’t have the luxury of time. The important thing is for it to be recognized and then 911 should be called, because they can recognize and triage the patient.”

Both father and son said they’re pretty much back to their old selves, but want people to know the signs and that time is of the essence.

“It kind of changes your life when you talk to people about things,” said Larry. “You don’t know. You always hear, ‘We’ll do this tomorrow. We’ll do this next week.’ You may not have tomorrow or you may not have next week.”

“Thank God that I’m here today, that he’s here today and we’re doing good,” said Jeff.

Baptist Health uses the acronym BE FAST to help people know the signs of a stroke.

B -- Balance is off, dizziness, nausea

E -- Eyesight changes in one or both eyes

F -- Face droops on one side

A -- Arm (or leg) weakness or numbness

S -- Slurred speech

T -- Time is brain, so call 911 immediately. There are time-sensitive treatment options available to reverse the symptoms.

The Critzers know there is a chance of having another stroke, so they make sure to go for regular checkups with their doctors, manage their diabetes, exercise and watch their diets.

About the Author:

Amanda DeVoe joined the News4JAX team in March 2022 as a morning news and traffic anchor