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Health conference for men scheduled for Saturday at Phoebe HealthWorks

Albany mens health fair to focus on stroke prevention

James Dickens Jr., a four-time stroke survivor, will be giving his testimony at a men’s health conference at Phoebe HealthWorks on Saturday. (Staff Photo: Jennifer Parks)

James Dickens Jr., a four-time stroke survivor, will be giving his testimony at a men’s health conference at Phoebe HealthWorks on Saturday. (Staff Photo: Jennifer Parks)

ALBANY — Stroke prevention and awareness will be the focus of an upcoming men’s health conference taking place in downtown Albany on Saturday.

The event will be at Phoebe HealthWorks, located at 311 W. Third Ave., from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. It will include health screenings for cholesterol, diabetes and blood pressure as well as presentations from physicians, a testimony and educational materials from multiple vendors.

The testimony will be from James Dickens Jr., a stroke victim and father. A life-long resident of Albany, Dickens suffered his first stroke on Nov. 15 of last year. He since then has had three other strokes as well as three seizures and two brain surgeries.

“A couple of weeks before (the first stroke), I was having classic signs of a stroke, but I let them go because I didn’t want anything to be wrong,” he said. “It was on a Friday morning (on the day of the first stroke). I was getting ready for work, and tried to reach for my keys. I was doing it, but I couldn’t feel it because my (left) arm went numb.

“Later, I went into full-blown stroke and couldn’t talk.”

Despite having a family history of heart disease and stroke, Dickens’ lifestyle prior to November was a sedentary one that included a diet of pizza, chicken wings and donuts — even after a heart surgery he had a few years ago.

“I knew better,” he said. “A day without sweating was a good one for me. It does matter what you eat and what you do.”

From his experience, the advice he now gives to others is to not ignore symptoms, make exercise a vital part of daily life, pray, spend time with their children and to remember that the actions men take have an impact on not just themselves, but the loved ones he could potential leave behind — including not taking responsibility for his own health.

After all of this, he is able to look at Father’s Day, as well as his late father, in a new light.

“(When something like this happens) you feel like a burden to your family. I look at Father’s Day in a different light, because I don’t know if I’ll have another one,” he said. “All of my life, most of my life, I was very hard on my dad; he was very stubborn. I’ve forgiven him whether he needed it or not. I don’t want to be in a position where my kids forgive me 20 years from now. I want to be right with them now.

“Right now I’m weak because I was afraid of (what might be wrong). It affects everything.”

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain is blocked by a clot or bursts. When this happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood and oxygen it needs, which causes that section of the brain to die. Information available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States and is a major cause of adult disability. About 800,000 people in the U.S. have a stroke each year, and one American dies from a stroke every four minutes, on average, the CDC says.

The conference will begin with registration, the health screenings, a continental breakfast and the education booths. Physician-led presentations will be from Dr. James E. Black of Phoebe Emergency Medicine, and Dr. Ashli Alexander of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Phoebe Palliative Care. Amanda Chavers, quality coordinator of clinical care services at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, will also be on hand to discuss the impact of stroke.

Lunch will be provided. This event is free and open to the public. For more information, call (229) 312-7121.