WHEN TEXAS PHILANTHROPIST Kristi Schiller had crippling migraines, bouts of transient amnesia and speech problems at age 50, she chalked it up to old age. But the incidents got worse, and one time she forgot how to get home.
“After the issues continued a while, I thought I had a brain tumor,” says Schiller. A few weeks later, she noticed loss of motor skills and coordination, and after experiencing a serious fall, an MRI revealed she had suffered from multiple strokes. “It was 2021 and in the wake of Covid-19, so it took 12 hours waiting at Methodist Hospital to be admitted, but I was glad I was getting treatment,” says Schiller. At that point, she didn’t even remember her name or how to write.
With help from her doctors and through daily medication, Schiller has made almost a full recovery and hasn’t suffered another stroke since her diagnosis. In addition to her life as a Quarter Horse breeder and operating a non-profit organization, she now uses her social platform — with 165,000 followers — to advocate for stroke awareness and prevention.
Cardiovascular disease, including stroke, is the No. 1 cause of death in women, with one in five experiencing a stroke, according to the American Heart Association. Schiller is determined to share her story in hopes of raising awareness about the warning signs of strokes and how to prevent them. “If there’s anything I love, it’s being a pundit!” adds the former media personality.
Schiller says it’s always important to know your family’s medical history. “I had no idea that my grandmother died of a stroke until I talked to my cousin about the details,” says Schiller. There are many signs and symptoms of a stroke including numbness on one side, issues with speech, chest pain and more, so she advises women to stay on top of their check-ups, communicate with their doctor and to not ignore symptoms. “Most people associate stroke with cardiovascular disease but after weeks of testing, my neurosurgeon discovered that my multiple strokes were most likely caused by a heart murmur I was born with.”
After months of recovery, testing and speech therapy, she’s happy to be at home at Schiller Ranch near College Station, where she and husband John Schiller, “a big Texas Aggie fan,” breed Quarter Horses for racing. “I’m in charge of all things tangible like our farm-to-table menus, but I have to watch myself because I still get exhausted and there is always a chance of another seizure,” says Schiller.
Schiller took a hospital selfie as she recovered from a series of strokes last year that left her, for a time, unable to recall her name
Schiller, a dog lover, founded a nonprofit that pairs canine cops with law enforcement.
Schiller — who had some fun with CityBook last year, giving colorful answers to the mag's influencer questionnaire — is still involved with the non-profit she founded, K9s4COPS, an organization that provides K-9s trained in narcotics, explosives and firearms detection to police across the country. She knew she needed help during her recovery and found some key players for assistance. “We run on a skeleton crew, but we have grown the organization tremendously and now operate in 38 states.”
She prides herself in the fact that the non-profit has confiscated $2.5 billion in contraband nationwide by using trained K-9s. “All of these recent school shootings are so frightening and sad. Our K9s4KIDs initiative has given 28 school K9-s to 15 schools and universities across the U.S. and kept over two million students safe each school year.”
Now, that’s something to be proud of!