12-year-old making 4th trip to D.C. to address lawmakers about stroke

Michelle Ballasiotes said she likes Washington and her mother says she is comfortable now speaking out for more money for research.

There are not many preteens wrestling with a career choice between therapist and lobbyist but, Michelle Ballasiotes has experience in both.

She is making her fourth trip to Washington, D.C., to speak today at a briefing on pediatric stroke for members of Congress sponsored by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association and other groups.

The 12-year-old Evans girl suffered a stroke before she was born, which left her with extensive weakness on her right side that required physical and occupational therapy until about a year ago.

"It's never going to be gone completely," Michelle said, noting that her right calf is measurably smaller than the left.

One thing that is not difficult is speaking out on stroke, said her mother, Mary Kay.

"She's just passionate about helping other stroke victims and getting more research done," she said. "And without the awareness there isn't going to be any research."

It helps that Michelle likes Washington, Mary Kay said.

"She likes to do it because she likes to spread the word and help other people," she said. "She feels so at home in Washington."

Michelle says she has thought about making advocacy her career.

"It's been between occupational therapy and a lobbyist, but I'm not sure," she said.

"We have many years to change her mind," Mary Kay joked.

It is a testament to her ability as an advocate, however, that she is one of only three speakers invited to the briefing by the heart association.

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