Guy Gilchrist, the lead artist behind Nancy, knows from personal experience about the risk factors that can lead to strokes—and on World Stroke Day this year, he used his comic strip to draw attention to a health risk he calls a “slap from God.”
If you were stumbling around the comics page on Saturday, you might have caught an interesting message hiding in the longtime strip Nancy.
The placement was no accident—timed specifically to World Stroke Day. The comic showed up in newspapers nationwide thanks in no small part to the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American Stroke Association (ASA), a division of AHA. The two groups teamed with the comic’s longtime lead artist, Guy Gilchrist.
As AHA CEO Nancy Brown notes in a blog post on The Huffington Post, Gilchrist had good reason for helping AHA: The artist, now 59, had a stroke in his early 20s, something he called a “slap from God,” a side effect of the stress and hectic lifestyle he was leading. While recovering from the stroke, he had a realization.
“I remember lying in bed thinking, ‘God just gave me a love tap,'” he told Brown. “I had to straighten my act out right then and there.”
That move led Gilchrist to quit his bartending jobs and to become a full-time artist, a move that led to a gig drawing a Muppets comic strip and, eventually, Nancy. But in his 40s, stress started hitting again—and he was falling back into some bad old habits.
He got another love tap.
“My wife found me on the ground, face up, in my studio, and she didn’t know how long I’d been there,” Gilchrist told the website. “I couldn’t move and I had no clue what was going on. Doctors weren’t sure if it was another stroke or something with my heart, but it laid me out for about a week.”
It took Gilchrist longer to recover the second time around, but he eventually did, thanks to healthier eating and smart time management.
Now, with his Nancy strip, he’s helping to ensure others get the same message he did. Lucas Wetzel, an editor at content syndicate Universal Uclick, credited Gilchrist for using the strip to draw attention to an important issue.
“I was happy to see that the Oct. 29 ‘Nancy’ comic strip mentions stroke awareness, which is an issue that doesn’t always get a lot of attention,” Wetzel said in a news release. “Getting the right information about how to respond to a stroke can make a critical difference in someone’s life. We’re thrilled that Guy is using ‘Nancy’ as a platform to encourage greater stroke awareness to thousands of newspaper readers across the country.”
You can learn more about World Stroke Day on the American Stroke Association website.