Written by Nick Jaroka
I remember spending time in the rehabilitation unit at Grand River Hospital (Freeport) and evenings quiet, visitors had gone home for the day and this was a time for reflection. One reflection was “now what, what’s next” for the future.
My first exposure to March of Dimes Canada was while going through inpatient rehabilitation; there I met a Linking Survivors with Survivors (LSWS) hospital peer mentor. He had a stroke and was open to talk to me about anything. I remember not being able to speak and frustrated that the words didn’t come out but he was also a stroke survivor and immediately understood, was patient and gave me encouragement to move forward. This LSWS volunteer visited me weekly and each time we met I asked him more questions and felt the hope to keep moving forward.
Once I transitioned back home and continued with outpatient rehabilitation, I was looking to fill some of the spare time between therapy sessions. I got into contact with the LSWS community coordinator and we met. She (was awesome, fantastic… ha ha ) was able to explain the program and we decided that volunteering as a LSWS peer mentor was a great idea.
I volunteered 2 days a week going back to Grand River Hospital (Freeport) and visited stroke patients. This has been a great experience, every time I visited I learned something new about myself and before I knew it I was finding I could do things I wasn’t able to do before.
These opportunities enable me to continue my rehabilitation but in a ‘give back to community’ aspect – Nick Jakora
While volunteering with LSWS, I also attended the YMCA Fitness for Function program. I approached them to see if it would be possible to volunteer in their programs to encourage survivors to continue their rehabilitation. These opportunities enable me to continue my rehabilitation but in a “give back to community” aspect; some days were tiring, but it was a good tired.
Throughout this stroke recovery path, I had this thought if it would be possible to return to work. This would be a huge financial support for my family if I could even work part time. I again approached the LSWS coordinator and she was able to provide linkages including that March of Dimes Canada has an employment program specific to persons with disabilities.
I used March of Dimes Canada assistance to navigate the systems to get the appropriate referrals and the correct paperwork. I met with a career counsellor to find out exactly what my interests are and possible employment opportunities.
Currently, I’m attending a job search workshop where I continue to learn new things about myself, and how to manage those fears of knowing I had a stroke, what if I don’t understand while on the job, what if I can’t recall, and words or my speech get jumbled? Is this goal even possible? I know that I am not alone and will continue to work on my recovery. My next step will be securing part time employment in a field of new interest and can’t wait for the next step in my path to recovery.
For more resources on Stroke Recovery, please visit our landing page for Stroke Recovery Canada®, which is a national service offering support, education and community programs for stroke survivors, caregivers and their families: http://bit.ly/ModcSRC