September 21, 2016 was the day that forever changed Sharon Epperson’s life.
We are both Taylor Allderdice High School graduates. We’re both members of the school’s Hall of Fame. I, like many others, have followed the successful career of Epperson—you may know her as CNBC’s Senior Personal Finance Correspondent. Oh, but there’s much more. She’s an author of the book, “The Big Payoff: 8 Steps Couples Can Take to Make the Most of their Money and Live Richly Ever After,” which was a finalist for the Books for a Better Life Awards, honoring works that change people’s lives. Her personal finance expertise has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Boston Globe, Essence, Ebony and TIME.
But that’s not it—the accomplishments keep coming.
Her bio on CNBC.com stated that she’s won an Alliance for Women in Media’s Gracie Award for Outstanding Online Host for her “Financial Advisor Playbook” video series on CNBC.com. She’s received the Vanguard Award for her distinguished career in business and personal finance reporting from the National Urban League Guild, and the All-Star Award from the Association of Women in Communications. She also has won awards from the New York Festivals, the New York Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Black Journalists.
Epperson also is an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.
Then came Sept. 21, 2016. Epperson suffered a hemorrhagic stroke from a ruptured brain aneurysm.
Epperson’s grandfather and aunt both passed away after brain hemorrhages.
But Epperson did not.
She recently learned that research shows one in five people who suffer a ruptured brain aneurysm have a family history of the disease.
Nearly two years to the day after her brain aneurysm, Epperson came to Pittsburgh as the Brain Aneurysm Foundation (BAF) hosted its 12th annual Research Grant Symposium, Sept. 20, at the Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel. BAF will grant $500,000 of research funding to 14 different research professionals across the country.
At the event, Epperson presented The Sharon Epperson Chair of Research Grant, worth $15,000. The grant will be awarded to renowned neurologist and researcher Dr. Brian Hoh, chair of neurosurgery at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Dr. Hoh is researching the formation of brain aneurysms, as well as innovative tissue engineering technology to improve treatments. The grant was made possible by generous contributions to the BAF from CNBC, as well as Epperson’s friends and family.
I had a chance to speak with Epperson during her visit to Pittsburgh. I asked her if she had any symptoms prior to the aneurysm. “There wasn’t a migraine or anything like that, I don’t have a history of high blood pressure and I don’t smoke or drink excessively,” Epperson told me. “So in short, there weren’t any symptoms. But I do fit the demographic and there is a family history of the disease. Also, this is more likely to happen to African Americans and women more than men.”
After Epperson, 50, suffered the aneurysm, she told me she was off work for more than a year. She was in the intensive care unit for two weeks and in the hospital for a month. “I had to go through speech therapy and learn how to walk again. I didn’t drive for several months.”
I asked my fellow Taylor Allderdice alum about her hair being cut so short after surgery. “I felt free. I was wearing a weave for several years, I can’t believe that I wore it for as long as I did. At first I was worried about what the viewers would say about the change in hairstyles but I’m a new Sharon Epperson, I’m a different person now. I’m enjoying my natural hair. Debbie, you are the first to ask that question.”
So, what’s Epperson doing these days differently as far as her health is concerned? “I work out daily; I was working out before…as a matter of fact my aneurysm took place while I was coming out of a stretch while I was working out, but now I make working out, walking and daily meditation and devotion a priority,” she told me.
As for recommendations to Courier readers on how they should take care of their finances when it comes to health, Epperson said: “There are three things I would like to mention. First, is to have an emergency savings. Second, disability insurance. And third, to have someone as a healthcare power of attorney and a financial power of attorney. It is likely to become disabled by a medical issue and you have to have a plan in place for the likelihood of not having a paycheck.”
Epperson now lives in Westchester County, N.Y., with her husband, Christopher, and her two children. But before the bright lights of New York, the bright lights of national television, it was Epperson, here in Pittsburgh, where everything started. “I love Pittsburgh. The city is so vibrant and I always feel so at home there,” she told me. “Friends of mine in New York are anxious to send their children to schools in Pittsburgh. CMU (Carnegie Mellon University) and the University of Pittsburgh top the list for them. I hope people of color who live in Pittsburgh are making sure they are a part of all the great things that are happening in the city.”
As for Epperson’s induction into the Taylor Allderdice High School Hall of Fame? “It was one of my greatest honors,” Epperson said. “I have such good memories of Allderdice—I would not be a journalist if not for my teacher, Marsha Tharp, at Allderdice. She is the one that connected me with the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation. I attended the workshop and the rest is history.”
(Rob Taylor Jr. contributed to this story.)
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