Community rallies around Colassaco-DeRosso
Approximately 800,000 people have strokes each year
HURLEY - Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S., with one person dying every four minutes as a result.
The symptoms are silent, sudden and leave devastating effects on those who suffer from a stroke.
In the medical field, research has been conducted on how strokes occur, how it affects the body and ways to prevent strokes from happening.
For the employees of Avanti Home Health, strokes hit home in April, when one of their own, a 36-year-old registered nurse, suffered a stroke.
Rachael Colassaco-DeRosso, of Hurley, had recently been married to her husband Chris, with her son Bailey and daughter Charlene, also known as Tink, at their side. Colassaco-DeRosso then took time away from work to celebrate her honeymoon with her new husband.
Shortly after returning to work at Villa Maria Health and Rehabilitation Center in Hurley, Colassaco-DeRosso went after work to help a friend paint in her house. There, she suddenly experienced some symptoms, and she was transported to Aspirus Grand View Hospital in Ironwood by a family member. Along the way, her symptoms became stronger, and Beacon Ambulance had to intercept the family member's vehicle to get her to the hospital.
Once there, Colassaco-DeRosso began treatment for the stroke immediately.
"Once she got there, Grand View was in contact with St. Mary's (Hospital) in Duluth (Minn.,)" sister Ashley Colassaco-Thompson said. "From there she was flown to Duluth. Grand View had a great response time, and Beacon did a great job as well."
When Colassaco-DeRosso arrived in Duluth, she was medically intubated, and stayed in the neuro-trauma center at St. Mary's for a few weeks.
"We were told that things were touch-and-go a couple of times, and that we should prepare for the worst," Colassaco-Thompson said. "She is very lucky."
When Colassaco-DeRosso's co-workers found out what had happened, they rallied, and according to co-worker Lauri Kutz, they almost immediately began planning something to help.
"Rachael is a very dedicated, top member of our team, and we wanted to do something to help with her enormous medical bills," Kutz said.
The group planned a fundraising benefit, but in addition to helping Colassaco-DeRosso, they wanted to spread the word about stroke awareness as well.
"It is not just older people that have strokes," Kutz said. "It's people in their teens, 20s, 30s, 40s. Rachael was 36 years old when this happened. It's not just the elderly that are susceptible."
Strokes occur due to problems with the blood supply to the brain; either the blood supply is blocked or a blood vessel within the brain erupts. Approximately 800,000 people have a stroke each year, which is about one person every four seconds.
Strokes affect more women than men each year, with approximately 55,000 more women having a stroke each year.
Some common symptoms of stroke for both men and women include sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body; sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding; trouble seeing in one or both eyes; trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination and sudden, severe headaches with no known cause.
In women, some other stroke symptoms can be face and limb pain, sudden hiccups, nausea, general weakness, chest pain, shortness of breath and palpitations.
If someone is experiencing the symptoms, they are advised to call 911 immediately and seek medical attention.
To help people remember stroke symptoms, the National Stroke Association created the FAST campaign. The campaign focuses on the face, arms, speech and time, asking people to check for face drooping, arms drifting downward, slurred or strange speech and knowing its time to call 911.
Leak Koski, Colassaco-DeRosso's co-worker, said she found the experience "eye-opening."
"I'm 36-years-old, and I never thought this could happen," Leah said. "I immediately began thinking about my diet, lifestyle changes, exercise, because those are all factors. It's important to keep up with doctor's appointments, getting a full physical and making sure blood pressure, cholesterol and stress levels are within normal limits."
Avanti employees teamed up to create "Team Rachael," to spread the word about stroke awareness and make sure people are aware of the symptoms. The group even participated in the annual Iron County Heritage Parade, wearing purple t-shirts printed with "Team Rachael on the front.
"Rachael surprised us and graced the day with her presence," Kutz said. "She road on the float and we chanted, 'We love Rachael,' throughout the parade. It was very special for her, and all of her family, friends and co-workers came to support her."
Colassaco-DeRosso has received physical, occupational and speech therapy and is continuing to improve, which is "miraculous," according to Kutz.
"Everyone has been praying for her, and wishing her all the best through this," Kutz said. "She is very dear to all of us."
Koski said, "One hundred percent of Rachael's heart, body and soul is caregiving. We are all here to support her."
The benefit event is Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Kimball Community Center. Tickets are available at the door, and the event includes an Italian dinner, raffles, events for kids and other activities.
"This is a great event, and a celebration of Rachael's continued healing," Kutz said. "She is a kind-hearted person, who generally loves people and would do anything to help someone."
As for Colassaco-DeRosso's family, the support has been overwhelming.
"The way everyone has rallied around her is overwhelming and gives me chills," Colassaco-Thompson said. "It's so touching. ... Rachael is amazing, the best sister and friend you could ask for and is funny and caring. She is just one of the best people you could know."
For more information on the Rachael Colassaco-DeRosso Benefit and stroke awareness event, for ticket prices, to donate or volunteer, call Villa Maria Health and Rehabilitation Center at 715-561-3200 or visit, facebook.com/events/1468565173385757.