Nicole Provost, from Hopewell Township, was 16 years old when she witnessed her 18 year old sister Michelle having a stroke.“I will never forget that day, it was one of the scariest things I have ever witnessed and it still continues to haunt my memory.”
Nicole and Michelle Provost were on the same cheer squad and standing just feet apart when Michelle’s stroke occurred. Michelle had recently been appointed captain of her high school cheerleading squad and was going to graduate in the months to come.
“She had a lot going for her, she was about to graduate and was eager to start college” stated Nicole Provost.
Today, Michelle is a full time student at Mercer, majoring in Exercise Science. She also works part time at a local deli.
Though the American Stroke Association (ASA) says that strokes are far more common in those over age 65, and that men have strokes in greater numbers than women, they indicate that women are more likely to die from stroke.
“Use of birth control pills and pregnancy pose special stroke risks for women,” the ASA’s official website says. They also explain that diabetes, drug use and a number of other health factors can contribute to stroke incidence.
A stroke is caused when a blood vessel carrying oxygen and other important nutrients to the brain gets blocked by a clot or ruptures. Then when this specific area of the brain does not receive the oxygen it needs, the surrounding tissue begins to die off.
Donna Provost said, “It is just so unexpected. A stroke is not something a young woman should have to think about, and now I count my blessings each and every day.”
Come August, the high school teams begin to buckle down for the fall season. August 23 of 2011 proved no different for the athletes except Michelle. During cheer practice, Michelle fell to the ground unconscious as she suffered a life-threatening stroke.
Nicole Provost said, “It was so scary but I knew I was the one that was going to have to help her and get her through it for the time being.”
After being rushed to the emergency room, Michelle was unable to walk, talk or feel hot and cold in her hands and face.
“We were all so scared and we did not know if she would ever be able to fully function again,” Nicole said.
However, after one week in the hospital Michelle had already learned to walk, talk and complete small tasks on her own again.
Nicole Provost stated, “She actually had a very speedy recovery and although it was difficult at times it was a miracle that she was able to overcome so much so quickly.”
After being released from the hospital, Michelle was sent to a rehabilitation center where she completed therapy to ensure her body fully recovered.
After what her mother Donna Provost described as “weeks of grueling therapy and pointless testing” Michelle was strong enough to finish out her senior year of high school and head on to Mercer County Community College.
Michelle says, “I never let my stroke get in my way nor do I plan on it.”
After not being able to participate in cheerleading for months following her stroke, Michelle decided that she wanted to go return to the sport and challenge herself.
“I was shocked to find out that Mercer did not have a cheer squad but that wasn’t going to stop me so I set out to find a solution,” Michelle said.
On a mission, Provost searched and scouted out girls who would be interested in joining the new squad.
“I just began talking about cheer constantly and asking everyone and anyone if they would be interested in joining” stated Michelle. After searching, Michelle found six other girls that were willing to join her team.
Catherine Colehower, a second year Liberal Arts major says, “I was eager to join the team not only because I like cheer but because Michelle was nice. She went out of her way for me and the other girls.”
The current team of 10 women, practices three times a week.
“Having forty girls on the emailing list is great but we only actually have these ten girls who show up daily to our practices. We’re still hunting for more girls,” Michelle says.
When the team is not practicing, Michelle encourages the girls to participate in campus activities to “better themselves and to be able to bond.”
Michelle says she has no intention of slowing down, her family is happy that the incident did not affect her personality.
Nicole says, “I don’t know what I would have done if Michelle wasn’t herself, she’s that girl that says the most outrageous things that you can’t help but laugh and smile a lot when you’re around her. She’s unique, smart and inspiring.”