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Stroke Survivor and Area Stroke Support Group Receive Awards from American Stroke Association

The Hazard and Surrounding Area Stroke Survivor and Caregiver Support Group, along with one of the group’s founding members, Mark Kincaid, a stroke survivor from Letcher County | Photo Provided
American Stroke Association award recipient Mark Kincaid | Photo Provided

HAZARD, Ky. (April 24, 2020) — The Hazard and Surrounding Area Stroke Survivor and Caregiver Support Group through the University of Kentucky Center of Excellence in Rural Health, along with one of the group’s founding members, Mark Kincaid, a stroke survivor from Letcher County, were honored this week with Stroke Hero Awards from the American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association (AHA).

Stroke Hero Awards are given each year to individuals and groups in the stroke community who have shown resilience and outstanding progress. Kincaid was among eight finalists nationwide for the Voters’ Choice Award, which honors an individual or group making an outstanding effort to educate, inspire, and bring awareness about stroke on a local or national level. For two weeks, community members and supporters rallied behind Mark to cast their choice in the public vote from March 19 through April 2.

Kincaid received 2,867 votes out of a total of just over 7,000 votes cast for all nominees and AHA honored him with the Voters’ Choice Award and the following story on their website this week:

Over a decade ago, Mark Kincaid experienced a catastrophic ischemic stroke at age 42 due to undiagnosed high blood pressure. Doctors predicted that Mark might not survive surgery to treat the stroke, and if he did, he would live the rest of his days in a vegetative state.

But Mark defied the predictions as soon as he woke up from surgery. After weeks of intensive inpatient therapy, he began regaining some of his cognitive and physical abilities, and after three months in hospitals, he was finally able to go home.

Mark continued working hard on his recovery, almost always doing double what was recommended. By playing brain games and doing speech therapy activities, Mark continued to improve his cognitive and communication skills, although he still struggles with expressive aphasia and apraxia to this day. His stroke heavily impacted the right side of his body, so his therapy included using a leg brace and electric stimulation units for his leg and arm.

Mark joined his local stroke support group and has been an active member for years. He regularly participates in stroke education activities in schools, helps provide stroke awareness education at local events and works with a rehabilitation center to help patients learn to cope with the aftermath of a stroke. Mark also helps educate graduate students at Eastern Kentucky University on the stroke survivor experience and works to achieve local and national recognition for Stroke Awareness Month and World Stroke Day.

Mark’s undeniable fighting spirit helps make him a great role model for stroke survivors.

“Mark is very grateful and blessed for this opportunity. He hopes he can use this award to further stroke awareness in our community,” said Tonya Kincaid, Mark’s wife, who is also an active member of the support group.

The Hazard and Surrounding Area Stroke Survivor and Caregiver Support Group was also honored by the AHA with the Outstanding Support Group Award. Established in 2015, it was the first stroke support group ever created to serve Perry and surrounding counties. It formed after a need was identified during a UK pilot, Kentucky Care Coordination for Community Transitions Program (KC3T), a program geared toward stroke navigation and community transition. The group offers support not only for stroke survivors but also for their caregivers and family members. Increasing awareness and providing stroke education at the community level is an additional mission of the group. Their passion is palpable, and their commitment is strong. They actively work to raise stroke awareness in under-resourced rural eastern Kentucky — a region with one of the highest stroke rates in the nation — through outreach efforts, local radio and TV appearances, and stroke screening events.

Since 2018, they have completed over 542 stroke screenings, educated 1007 elementary and high school students, and garnered stroke proclamations in three counties as well as two cities of Eastern Kentucky. Part of those efforts included an event for American Stroke Month last May. The group educated more than 600 elementary, middle, and high school students about the signs and symptoms of stroke, stroke prevention, and how to become advocates within their communities. In October 2019, they hosted their first stroke lunch and learn for World Stroke Day, where they performed 50 stroke risk screenings and were featured in a local news story.

The Hazard Stroke Survivor and Caregiver Support Group works relentlessly to make a positive impact on members’ lives and their community.

“When we developed the Kentucky Care Coordination for Care Transitions program little did we know that one of the lasting impacts within the region would be the development of this amazing support group. This group was a key member of another funded project examining how to empower community members to be active advocates within their community. This national recognition demonstrates how the stroke support group has excelled as advocates for the stroke population within their rural communities,” said Pat Kitzman, professor in the UK Physical Therapy Program.

Keisha Hudson, research coordinator at the UK Center of Excellence in Rural Health (UK CERH) located in Hazard, has provided dedicated leadership for the group since its inception and said the award could not have come at a better time since the organization will celebrate its five-year anniversary this month.

“As the leader of this group, I could not be more grateful, appreciative, and proud of every member of the group and this honor. Our group has worked very hard to make stroke education and awareness a focal point in our rural communities of eastern Kentucky, and I am honored that our efforts have been recognized by the American Stroke Association,” Hudson said.

Dr. Fran Feltner, director of the UK CERH, applauded the passion and dedication of the people working on the locally-led initiative to improve the health of their fellow rural Kentuckians.

“The support group has developed into a family of people who are survivors, caregivers, family members, local and state leadership, who play a vital role in educating community awareness and support for the people who need access to care and healing,” Feltner said.

To watch the Stroke Hero Award videos and read more about the award recipients, visit

For more information about the Perry County Stroke Survivor and Caregiver Support Group, contact

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