DaRae Marcum is a busy businesswoman. She has owned a catering business for 22 years, and she has 20 full-time and 150 part-time employees. Her calendar is chock-full.
As the owner of DaRae & Friends Catering, she provides food for weddings, parties, corporate events and holiday festivities. She always thought she was meant to be a caterer, although after graduating from Eastern Kentucky University, she worked for a law firm for a while, catering on the side.
Her company caters about 40 events a week during peak season,, April to December, and about 20 events a week in the offseason. She also is the official caterer for Fasig-Tipton, the Thoroughbred auction house.
About three years ago, Marcum had a stroke. Six months later, she had another one.
The first stroke happened in the middle of the night in fall 2014, when Marcum, 57, woke up thirsty and went to get a Popsicle that she found herself craving. She dropped the treat and couldn’t move to pick it back up. She woke her husband, Steve, a physical therapist, who knew to get her to a hospital. He can still remember waking up and seeing the look on her face.
Dr. David Blake, a neurologist who’s also a friend, diagnosed a stroke. She was in intensive care for three days, although doctors couldn’t find a cause for the stroke. She was given a prescription for blood pressure medicine, had some rehabilitation therapy and eventually returned to work part-time.
The second stroke occurred in the lobby of Saint Joseph Hospital. One of her clients, a drug representative, was in the same building, and because Marcum was unable to speak, her friend spoke for her. That stroke left her unable to speak for about two days.
This time, the doctors discovered that Marcum had atrial fibrillation, or A-fib, a condition that causes irregular heartbeat. A-fib also increases the risk of blood clots, which can cause a stroke if one enters the brain.
For Marcum, A-fib feels like her heart is fluttering, like after someone exercises hard and the heart does not slow down when it should. Others with A-fib, including her father, can’t feel this sensation. Her mother, who with her aunts taught Marcum to cook, died from an aneurysm when she was 12.
Marcum takes better care of her health now. Before the strokes, she got about four hours of sleep a night and pushed herself to work even when she felt tired. Now, she tries to get at least seven hours of sleep, and she recognizes when her body tells her she’s tired.
She also exercises in the morning and highly recommends yoga and meditation, which she said helps her focus. And she takes a blood thinner daily.
She also has lost about 20 pounds since the strokes. She said that has been hard because she has to taste everything her business creates, but she sometimes has a salad instead of whatever lunch her business makes that day.
Marcum credits her family and co-workers with helping her recover. Her family took great care of her, and her co-workers helped handle the business.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 795,000 Americans suffer strokes each year, and about 130,000 die.
DaRae and Steve Marcum both know she was fortunate. Steve said his wife puts everyone before herself. That might have been part of what brought on the strokes, but her desire to get back to what she loves helped her recover, he said.
Her catering business suffered a bit during her recovery because “people thought I was not capable of doing my job,” she said.
Steve can still remember waking up to DaRae having the first stroke and seeing the look on her face.
“She worked extra hard to make her comeback,” and she is stronger than ever, he said.
DaRae said her husband was her “angel” during her recovery.
She spoke about her stroke last November at a luncheon of the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women program. It was the first time she’d talked publicly about it, and she was a little nervous. Some stroke sufferers don’t want to talk about it out of fear of others knowing, she said.
She said she’d be happy to tell her story if it could help another survivor.
“If I could tell one person to really pay attention to their health ... then that could make a difference in their life.”
National Wear Red Day
Feb. 3 is National Wear Red Day. It’s part of the American Heart Association’s movement to end heart disease and stroke in women. More women than men die every year from heart disease and stroke. In fact, cardiovascular disease kills nearly one in three women each year, approximately one woman every 80 seconds. An estimated 80 percent of cardiac and stroke events can be prevented with education and action. Our story about DaRae Marcum is in recognition of Wear Red Day.