It’s less than 24 hours before coach Randy Draper’s Grain Valley High School girls basketball team meets its biggest rival, Oak Grove, yet the Eagles are all sitting in assistant coach Troy Spradley’s music room, rather than practicing in the gym.

There’s a reason – a reason that deals with the game of life, not the game of basketball.

For the seventh year in a row St. Mary’s Medical Center RN Chrystal Sibert has visited with members of the Eagles and the Oak Grove Panthers to discuss the importance of knowing the signs of a potential stroke or heart attack.

• Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. ...

• Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.

• Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.

• Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

As part of Heart Disease Awareness Week and National Go Red for Women Week, Sibert and women who have survived a stroke and heart attack hold a panel discussion that takes center stage during a big week of basketball.

“The amazing thing about something like this,” Draper said, “is that these young kids think they’re indestructible. And then, they hear something like this and it kind of opens up their eyes. When they find out about the warning signs, it can help them – but it can also possibly help their mothers or grandmothers or other older women in their life.

“It’s great that Chrystal takes time out of her hectic schedule to come up and do this every year.”

Joining Sibert were stroke survivor Buwan W. Johnson and heart attack survivor Donna Jones.

As they talk, some Eagles basketball players take notes, while others nod in agreement following a comment by the survivors.

“This is so important,” said Eagles center Maddie Knust, who spends part of her school day working at a local hospital as part of an internship program. “We all need to know the warning signs. We’re young, but we need to know the warning signs.”

Freshman Sydney Williams added, “I’m going to tell my mom everything I heard today. You should tell anyone you know, anyone you love, about the warning signs. It could save their lives.”

Heart disease and stroke are the cause of death of one of three in the United States and they kill more women than all forms of cancer combined.

“You must not ignore any kinds of symptoms,” said Johnson, who now uses a cane to walk. “I had been having headaches, but never thought about having a stroke. Luckily for me, my son’s girlfriend was at our home when I had my stroke and called 911. I lost all the sensation in my left side, but I am improving – and I am lucky and so thankful to be alive.”

Johnson never thought about a heart attack when her back started to hurt and she threw up in the middle of the night.

“Luckily, my husband was home with me and I got up out of bed in the middle of the night and had a bad back ache and pain through my shoulders,” Jones said. “I went into the bathroom and threw up, then I laid down on the floor, trying to get comfortable, and I couldn’t.

“My husband said we should call 911, but we live close to the hospital so we just went in our car.”

And Sibert said that is a big “no no!”

“Always call 911,” Sibert said, “because the crew has the equipment that can save your life. They can also keep in contact with the staff at the hospital so they will be ready for your arrival.”

Johnson’s heart attack caused some side effects, but she suffered little permanent damage to her heart.

“Act fast,” Johnson said, when asked about the most important issue dealing with a heart attack. “The quicker you arrive at the hospital, the better your chance of survival.”