‘Don’t die of doubt:’ Health officials urge African Americans to go to the hospital despite COVID-19 fears


MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A new poll out shows many African-Americans won’t go to the hospital if they are having a heart attack or stroke out of fear of contracting the coronavirus.

For Memphis nurse practitioner Ashanti Coleman, a stroke with a blood clot in the brain wasn’t supposed to happened to her.

“I had no other risk factors. No high blood pressure, no diabetes, no high cholesterol, none of those things besides being African-American,” Coleman said.

But it did happen.

“I had classic symptoms: headache, numbness and tingling on the left side and I had loss of coordination and my speech,” Coleman said.

This 40-year-old wife and mother of two children had her first stroke in 2017 and another one last year.

“I was in denial at that point, that I couldn’t be having a stroke because I’m healthy,” Coleman said.

She says she’s alive because of her family, faith and not ignoring the symptoms and going to the hospital.

“I’m definitely blessed. God has brought me a long way, and I still tear up thinking about it,” Coleman said.

But a Harris poll taken of African Americans shows 45% say if they were having a stroke or heart attack they wouldn’t go to the hospital. They fear being infected with COVID-19.

“We are all aware this pandemic and the severity of it, but again the important thing is time is of the essence, and Ashanti knows that time is brain and faster you get help, the better your outcome,” said Libby Perry, American Heart Association communications director.

To spread the word, four Mid-South hospitals have teamed up for a new initiative called “Don’t Die of Doubt.”

“Don’t be afraid. Don’t die of doubt,” Perry said. “Make sure you dial 911. You don’t have to drive yourself to the ER but call 911 when you’re experiencing those heart and stroke symptoms.”

And even during a pandemic, Coleman says the safest place to be in a medical emergency is the hospital.

“I would much prefer to go to the hospital and be diagnosed period whether it be COVID, heart attack or stroke at least we can get a diagnosis and get some treatment going,” Coleman said.

Baptist, Methodist Le Bonheur, Regional One Health and Saint Francis hospitals are all supporting the “Don’t Die of Doubt” campaign.

 They say if you think you’re having a heart attack or stroke, call 911.

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