Tesi Sanchez-Halpert: a stroke survivor's story
Tesi Sanchez-Halpert of Moorpark, California, is a stroke survivor who shares her story to help others understand that Latinas are at great risk for stroke.
Tesi was just 48 years old when she had a stroke on Feb. 9, 2004. More than five years later she still faces challenges every day but never loses her positive attitude. She has resumed her work as a metal sculptor and is an active spokesperson for Juntos Contra El Derrame Cerebral or Together Against Stroke which raises awareness of stroke among Latinos and targets the increased incidence of stroke at a younger age in Latinos.
Before her stroke Tesi was anenergetic physical education teacher, talented metal sculptor and enjoyed an active family life with her husband Dan and their son Joshua. Although several family members suffered heart disease and diabetes she never thought she was at risk for stroke due to her active lifestyle.
Numbness in her arm and hand eventually led her to make a doctor’s appointment and it was during that office visit that she suffered a stroke.
Tesi recalls moments of her stroke. Her vision came and went but she still noticed the alarm on the doctor’s face. She could not move and says she felt as though frozen in her body. She was taken to the hospital and received the clot-busting drug tPA. Before slipping into a drug induced coma, she woke up to tell Dan to make sure Joshua did his homework.
Then later that night she awoke to a different world. She was seeing double, had lost her sense of balance and could only work one side of her body. She could not believe that she had suffered a stroke. She was in shock.
Once she came out of the intensive care unit her stroke recovery process began with physical, occupational and speech therapists. Therapy continued twice a week once she returned home. Tesi was determined to return to work and resume her metal sculpting.
In the summer months that followed Tesi took up face painting at children’s activities as a way to regain strength in her hand. Being around kids helped uplift her spirits. She recalls, “My mind was not terribly clear, but the kids did not seem to mind.”
Shortly after the stroke Dan brought a miniature schnauzer puppy named Dude into the family to encourage Tesi to walk. Dude has become her constant companion. For American Heart Month Tesi dyed his ears red in support of the Go Red For Women movement. She explains, “When people stop to ask about Dude’s red ears I use that opportunity to share my experience and alert them to the signs of a stroke.”
She has not been able to return to work but keeps busy with many activities. Dan calls her Wonder Woman because he is “always wondering what she is up to.” She is an award-winning metal sculptor and first became involved with the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association by organizing a fund-raiser, entitled “Laughter is the Best Medicine,” at a local gallery to auction her work. For the event she also created “Faces of Stroke,” featuring pictures of stroke survivors ages five to 90.
Throughout her ordeal Tesi has maintained that laughter is the best medicine. It has helped her through the recovery process and is reflected when she shares her personal experience at events like the launch of Juntos Contra El Derrame Cerebral in Los Angeles and Riverside.
Tesi and other stroke survivors are making an impact by creating awareness in the Latino community. The Juntos program is a pilot project in five locations around the Western States Affiliate – Los Angeles, Inland Empire, San Jose, Sacramento and Las Vegas.
Tesi can be reached at : (805) 529 - 2645 or cell : (805) 813 – 1426
RE: Tesi Sanchez-Halpert
It’s a pleasure to write a letter for someone who I admire and who’s art work is so outstanding. Tesi Sanchez-Halpert is such a warm and positive person and has given more to Ventura County than we could ever repay.
I have been a guest and attended many of the artist interviews for Focus on the Masters. In all the years, I have never experienced an interview like the one when Donna Granata interviewed Tesi Sanchez-Halpert. The house packed and the audience went from tears to laughter, and back to tears again in a matter of minutes. We all left wondering what did we just experience. It was without doubt the most enlighten and entertaining Tuesday Talk I have attended. Tesi’s stories, her concepts and her art made me realized what a treasure we have in our community. It was an evening I will always remember.
Being a native of Ventura County and growing up on a farm gives Tesi a unique perspective. She takes the objects and tools of hard work and welds them in a way that allow them to transcends themselves and become a very personal statement. Each one of these sculptures vibrates with humor and laughter. It is an art that makes you feel good and is a constant joy to be around. Her work reflects the insight of a visual poet with wit of a stand up comic. Her work is highly sophisticated and yet borders on hilarious. Picasso would have been envious.
Like Tesi her art is unique. She doesn’t play into the pitfall of what is trendy or considered good art. She does her own thing it’s definitely not mainstream. Many artists draw or sculpt animals as they see them; Tesi sculpts them as she feels them. Her artwork presents to you life’s special moments with insight and humor.
I mentioned how much Tesi has given Ventura County. I’m sure she will list all her extensive donations of time and artwork on her resume. She is always ready to give of herself for the benefit of others.
Many of her donations are yearly. We at Studio Channel Islands Art Center have been blessed with her donations of artwork over the past ten years. Focus on the Masters, Ventura County Museum, Maritime Museum and so many more organizations must feel as we do. Thank you Tesi.
We are blessed to have Tesi Sanchez-Halpert as one of our own. She has given so much with her art and her unselfish love. Best of all she makes us smile. Now it’s our turn, we have the opportunity to give something back.
Professor of Art, Emeritus