Holly & Richard D.
Family & Caregiver
Victory Over Stroke
Hi, my name is Holly. On October 12, 2006 my life suddenly changed forever. It was on this day that my husband, Richard, had a massive stroke at the age of 50.
Hours slipped by as he completed the work day, not realizing what was happening inside of his body. We were lucky that we were at home together when Richard fell to the floor that evening.
This physically active and intelligent man was now bound to a wheelchair and his vocabulary was reduced to less than 10 words. Our conversations turned into silence. Our traveling adventures to the mountains, national forests and desert came to an end. For financial reasons I had to return to work after a 6-month leave. I had to learn how to juggle the responsibilities of my job along with my new responsibilities as caregiver to my husband and having full ownership of managing our household.
The effects on both of us were heart-wrenching, exhausting and many times frustrating. The support and programs offered by the Peninsula Stroke Association (PSA), a local California organization, were a big help to me. This organization provided me with local resources for stroke survivors, a calendar of the upcoming support groups each month, and a wonderful Caregiver Retreat where I was able to take a day off from my new job as caregiver to recharge my batteries.
Since that night I've been on a new journey as caregiver for my young husband. I've become passionate about helping others who have experienced the devastating aftermath of stroke. Unlike a heart attack, stroke can impact the survivor in extreme ways for the rest of their life and can have a significant effect on the lives of their loved ones.
When we decided to move to Florida I began searching for an organization similar to the one that helped me in California. I found there was none. With the guidance and mentoring of PSA, I decided along with my sister, Kim, to create the Stroke Association of Florida in the Sarasota, Manatee area so that we can provide to our community the services I so greatly appreciated and needed in California.
Since its inception in 2009, the Stroke Association of Florida, a nonprofit 501c3, has touched over 8500 lives through stroke prevention presentations, participation in health fairs and distribution of educational materials and has provided over 700 free stroke risk health screenings. The devastating effects of stroke can be overwhelming. Caregivers have identified the transition to home life as being the most difficult during the first two years. The Resource Guide for Stroke Survivors and Caregivers on http://www.StrokeFL.org can help minimize many of those transition challenges through its listing of over 500 local services.
Stroke Association of Florida has built relationships with local hospitals, healthcare professionals, non-profit organizations, stroke survivors and caregivers. We have become the recognized source for education on stroke prevention and are the only referral resource in Sarasota and Manatee counties for stroke survivors and caregivers.
I hope those in our community will find the Stroke Association of Florida a valuable avenue of support if their life has been touched by stroke. For those who have not been impacted by stroke I hope we can reduce the occurrence and devastating impact by educating our community about the risk factors and symptoms. Knowing your risk and controlling what you can is the best defense against having a stroke.
I want to advise other care partners and stroke survivors to never give up. Richard continues to make improvements, even though we were told early on from medical professionals that he would 'plateau' at 6 months and not get any better than the state he would be in at 6-months post stroke. That is not true in our situation and in dozens of other situations I've seen at stroke support groups and rehab centers over the years. Richard's mobility has increased and his speaking has improved year after year (he has expressive aphasia). He only has the use of one arm, but he's out fishing regularly in Sarasota Bay and works on our cars and around the garage.