International Stroke Story
I had my stroke in December of 2012. I was 52 and had a history of uncontrolled high blood pressure. I had just started a Master degree program at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, British Columbia Canada.
I spent 2 months in a Vancouver hospital and then 2 months in a rehabilitation hospital. The rehabilitation hospital was the 75-bed Holy Family Inpatient Rehabilitation Hospital that caters primarily to older adults, generally 55 and older, who have had strokes, joint replacements, fractures or amputations and require further therapy to allow them to return to their homes following an acute care stay.
By participating in daily active rehabilitation programs provided by a highly skilled interdisciplinary team patients are able to become stronger, retrain and learn new skills to allow them to safely return to their homes. When I was told in the hospital that I had a stroke, my initial reaction was--I don't think so! I did not have any of the classic symptoms outlined in the FAST brochure, but of course in hindsight, in the hospital I realized it must be true because I could not walk or use my left hand my speech and cognitive skills were largely intact. A nurse at Holy Family told me that I was the youngest person in the facility at that time. She did not intend to stress me out but said it was disturbing to her, as a healthcare practitioner, to have stroke patients from increasingly younger age groups.
I was fortunate to participate in the rehabilitation program at Holy Family. They had inpatient speech, occupational and physical therapy on a daily schedule. The therapists and staff were incredibly supportive and encouraging. By March, I was walking with a cane and ready to head home to Seattle. Now, I am back home and working with new doctors and therapists and taking advantage of resources such as the National Stroke Association.
I am still in a recovery phase, but I have learned a few lessons from my experience that I would like to share with other stroke survivors. 1) Stay positive! It is difficult given our circumstances and situation, but even small successes are huge! The first time I put on my shoes and socks by myself, the first walk on my own--huge! 2) Be considerate and thankful with your caregivers. They are really supportive and just want to see you stronger and see some of the old self-confidence back in your smile. As we know, having any sort of support is really critical for physical, mental and emotional recovery. 3) Stay informed and manage your care. In my case, I know I have to take my medication daily and I need to take my blood pressure daily. I also need to lose weight and find an exercise program that I can do every day to optimize my health.
I will not let my stroke define me or limit my capabilities. I will continue to learn from this experience and wish you all good health and best wishes in your recoveries--you can do it!!