After Stroke: Christopher’s Experience

"I am very thankful for those that support people like me, and our families, who are living with a stroke."

“I am very thankful for those that support people like me, and our families, who are living with a stroke,” says Christopher Munn.

Christopher Munn was on his Tuesday evening 10K run when he began to experience having a stroke. He suddenly saw flashes in his left eye and had a sharp headache. But when he went to the hospital, they told him it was probably a migraine. He’d never had a migraine before. Two days later, during an office meeting, he couldn’t move his right side.

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“Others noticed. I couldn’t talk. I tried but couldn’t get anyone to understand,” he remembers.

Chris was nothing if not active and healthy before his stroke. He regularly ran with the Owen Sound Running Club, spent time canoeing or skiing outdoors, attended book club meetings and renovated parts of his home.

But the stroke changed all that, greatly impairing his mobility, speech and lifestyle.

“The first night in the hospital after my stroke, I needed to go to the washroom,” he explains. “I wasn’t used to my leg and arm not working. I tried to get up and slid to the floor.”

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Christopher with a fish during a fishing activity at Aphasia Camp

March of Dimes Canada has helped him get back on his feet, offering support programs and subsidizing what his benefits do not cover.

It took seven weeks of rehab to be able to walk with a cane, and he needs ongoing physio three times a week to keep him mobile. He also joined the MODC Aphasia & Communications Disabilities Program (ACDP) for weekly speech therapy, and attends the After Stroke Support Group once a month to help integrate him back into a normal life.

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Chris and his wife during an adaptable bike ride at aphasia camp in St. George, 2016.

“[March of Dimes Canada] staff and volunteers are wonderful – so encouraging and supportive,” he says.

Today, Chris is adapting to a new life. “I miss jogging and hiking. I go for walks,” he explains. “I am trying to adjust to doing things differently.” It takes a great deal of effort, but he’s able to complete small tasks around the house, have conversations, and read books. He’s also taken up new hobbies, including art and dance, and is optimistic that with continued support, he’ll one day be able to bike again.

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Chris titles this “The Healing Power of Nature”

In Canada, over 400,000 people like Christopher have survived a stroke. We are helping families like Christopher’s by offering support, rehabilitation services, education and caregiver support through our nationwide After Stroke program. Visit the After Stroke website at afterstroke.marchofdimes.ca for more information and resources.

Ralph’s Journey

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Words by Ralph.

There are many things I am proud to have accomplished in my life.  Today, I am proud to add stroke survivor to that list.  March of Dimes Canada helped me get my life back.

My stroke left me feeling like I lost everything in an instant.  I became a guy who could not dress himself. I needed assistance with pretty much everything. I felt helpless, but most of all scared.

Thankfully, I learned about March of Dimes Canada Conductive Education® (CE) Program and all the ways in which they help stroke survivors return to independent life. Having already been in physical therapy for almost two years, I was skeptical as to how much more they could do for me. But participating in their Stroke and Fitness Program, I soon learned that I needed to stop focusing on what I couldn’t do and instead channel my energy into finding solutions to reach my milestones.

It’s been a long journey but one I am proud to have made.  Through MODC I have been clawing back to the point where I now live alone and I can do most of my daily chores independently. With each passing day, I regain more and more of my self-worth and dignity; I am no longer the guy who needs help with everything.

When you suffer a stroke, you lose everything in a matter of seconds, and it takes the rest of your life to gain it back.  March of Dimes Canada taught me if I want it back, I have to work for it.  It’s been three years since my stroke and I plan on working hard every day to get better and live as normal a life as I can.  The only thing that can stop a stroke survivor from getting better is giving up.  I’m not giving up.

I wouldn’t be where I am now without you.  Thank you.

 

If you’d like to help other stroke survivors like Ralph, please visit: https://marchofdimes.akaraisin.com/SpringGivingMay2018

Volunteer Spotlight: Jane Parsons

Volunteer Spotlight: May 2018

Volunteer Spotlight: Jane Parsons

Our volunteers are the best and we appreciate them for all the work they do.  This year we’re spotlighting them so we can get to know a little more of their interests! May’s spotlight is Jane Parsons. See her profile below!

Name: Jane Parsons

Nominated by: Devon Evershed

Volunteer Position: Peers Fostering Hope – Peer Visitor

What is your favorite part about volunteering with MODC?

I love to help others in their recovery.

If you read – what’s a good book you would recommend?

Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden, and The Marriage of Opposites – Alice Hoffman.

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

This I struggled with as no one power would help everyone! But if I had to have one, it would be to cure any child illness.

What is your go-to dessert?

Cheesecake and Rhubarb Pie

What is your favourite movie?

Sound of Music.

We asked Devon why she nominated this volunteer?

Jane is in her fourth year of volunteering with the Peers Fostering Hope (PFH) program. As a hospital volunteer she visits new stroke survivors and provides much needed inspiration and hope. She is a reliable and dedicated volunteer, who speaks positively about the PFH program to potential new volunteers by explaining the impact the program has made on her life and the difference that she feels she is making with others. Her honest and open communication is helpful to the patients she visits and other volunteers, who benefit from her wisdom.

In 2017, she joined a pilot project for community visiting as part of the PFH program. In this pilot she was matched with two individuals. She provided emotional support, helped with goal setting, and helped with accessing programs, to support reintegration into the community after stroke. According to one individual she supported: “She talks about what she’s gone through and what’s worked for her—it helps me know what’s coming. It prepares me as I go through the process and makes me feel like I’m not the only one who’s been through this.” She has been very proactive not only in her efforts to support these individuals but also in providing updates on her matches and suggestions to those who were administering the program. Jane, along with other volunteers from the program, have addressed a gap in care for stroke survivors and provided support during a crucial time of transition from hospital to home. It has been wonderful having Jane give back as part of the Peers Fostering Hope program.

How long have you been an MODC volunteer?

4 Years.

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If you’d like to learn more about March of Dimes Canada’s volunteering opportunities, please visit this landing page from the website: http://bit.ly/MODCVol

Green banner with 'Carol Agnew' written on it. Purple background with photo of Carol smiling in the middle. Green speech bubble saying "New Community Blog Post!". Text at bottom says "Carol's experience with Urban Pole Walking"

Carol Agnew’s experience with Urban Pole Walking

Green banner with 'Carol Agnew' written on it. Purple background with photo of Carol smiling in the middle. Green speech bubble saying "New Community Blog Post!". Text at bottom says "Carol's experience with Urban Pole Walking"
Written by Carol Agnew

In May 2016, I had a Lt Hemorrhagic Stroke. Prior to that, I had been quite physically active, hiking, going to yoga , working out at our local YMCA and snow shoeing in the winter. I did the Terry Fox Run every year. After my stroke, I couldn’t do any of those well loved activities.

Initially, I had in-home therapies through CCAC, to improve my speech and walking skills. In late August, my walking balance had improved and my OT (Occupational Therapist) asked if I had ever heard of Urban Pole Walking. I had several friends who had bought poles, with the intention of pole walking in the summer, so they would be ready for snow shoeing in the winter. However, they had never used them. I got the contact name from my therapist and called the contact person for our local March of Dimes Canada Urban Pole Walking Group. This also led me to Orillia’s Stroke Survivor’s and Caregiver’s Support Group.

When I commented that I was “pretty tippy” and another person said “ We’re all pretty tippy here” I didn’t feel so alone.

My friends started taking me to our local mall on Tuesday mornings for pole walking.  It was a challenging, but wonderful experience. I was able to connect with people, who were experiencing the same struggles and successes as I was. When I commented that I was “pretty tippy” and another person said “ We’re all pretty tippy here” I didn’t feel so alone. I had never met other people who had survived a stroke before and it was wonderful to talk to them over coffee, get tips and talk about shared experiences.

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Carol Agnew describing her experiences with Urban Poling – (Video to come!)

The first day of pole walking was really hard. I couldn’t get my poles and my feet to work together. I certainly couldn’t walk & talk!

However, as the Tuesday mornings went by, I was able to go longer distances and soon discovered that I could pole walk while talking. I was improving my both motor skills and endurance, as well as having a social experience with other stoke survivors and my friends.

..I have gained much more. My motor skills and endurance have improved as well as my speech. I have also made several new friends. Going out weekly for a fun activity has made me feel less isolated.

My initial goal for joining the pole walking group was to improve my walking skills, my balance and my endurance for physical activities. However, I have gained much more. My motor skills and endurance have improved as well as my speech. Just as important is that I have also made several new friends. Going out weekly for a fun activity has made me feel less isolated. I have gotten new links to community resources from other survivors, as well as the wonderful volunteers and Pauline Berry from March of Dimes Canada. An unexpected bonus for me was that last weekend, I was actually able to go snow shoeing. That was something I had thought I would never enjoy again. I certainly didn’t go far- just to the fence & back, but I was out enjoying winter again with my friends. Every small success is really a huge accomplishment for a stroke survivor.

World Stroke Day October 29, 2017. Did you know that walking with ACTIVATOR Urban Poles can save lives? Get involved >

In the lead up to World Stroke Day on October 29, 2017 we’ve partnered with UrbanPoling to help promote keeping an active lifestyle through a simple but effective activity – walking! During all of October, Urban Poling will donate 10% of online ACTIVATOR™ pole sales to our Stroke Recovery Canada® (SRC) Program. Take a look at the ACTIVATOR™ poles specs & the benefits of using them: http://bit.ly/UPACTWSD17

If you’re near a participating Guardian & IDA store (http://bit.ly/MODCWSD17) & decide to buy an ACTIVATOR™ Pole in person,  donating $10 to SRC will also get you a free set of snow baskets (for your poles in Winter!).

 

” ‘You will dance again..’ rang in my ears! It was a challenge I thought impossible.” – Len Boser, Stroke Survivor

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Stroke Survivor Stories: Len Boser
Written by Len Boser.

Fifteen years ago, I woke up to find the course of my life had changed forever. The day before, I was a physically active, healthy person leading the normal life of a father of two young sons, 7 and 10 years old. Overnight, I had a severe brain stem stroke that left me unable to walk, to talk and completely paralyzed on my right side.

After one and a half years in the hospital, I felt frustrated and hopeless despite the care of doctors and many trained healthcare practitioners. Despite their care, I did not know how to get my life back.

But, luckily, the inspiration and support from a fellow stroke survivor helped motivate me. His story about his recovery and even being able to dance again got me working on my rehabilitation and interested in helping others on their recovery as well. “You will dance again..” rang in my ears! It was a challenge I thought impossible.

Encouragement, support from my peers…and my motto…“Never Give Up!”

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Len Boser

A key to the quality of recovery is support from fellow stroke survivors and their
caregivers…the people who have first-hand experience. This peer support was instrumental for me. And that is what March of Dimes Canada’s Stroke Recovery Canada® is all about…reaching out to other stroke survivors and giving them understanding, knowledge and hope.

 

For more information on Stroke Recovery Canada®, please visit: http://bit.ly/ModcSRC

 

Angie Burke’s Story – Stroke Survivor & Peers Fostering Hope Stroke Mentor

Written by Angie Burke.
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Angie Burke, Stroke Survivor & Peers Fostering Hope Stroke Mentor

I was 46years old and it was a normal evening until my husband heard a crash and found me having a seizure.  I was completely flaccid on the left side and my face was drooping.  I was trying to speak but could not. He called 911 as he recognized the symptoms and knew that I was having a stroke.

The next 2 weeks were terrifying. I didn’t know if I was going to live or die.

If I did survive I didn’t know what my life was going to be like? Would I walk again?  Would I talk clearly again?  Would I be able to see clearly again? Dress myself? Feed myself? Would I be able to take care of myself and my family again??

Initially I was unable to walk. I had no use of my left side, I could see nothing on my left side, could not recognize people’s faces – I only knew my husband because of the shirt he was wearing, I could not tell time, I could not write, and the list goes on…

While in the hospital, I had help getting washed, help getting dressed, my meals were brought to me.  This was not the case at home.  The first time that I attempted to dress myself, it took me over an hour.  I remember bursting into tears.  Here I was a grown woman and I couldn’t even put on a shirt myself.  I either had it on backwards or inside out.  The same struggle happened when I tried to cook for the first time.  I couldn’t read, so how was I supposed to follow a recipe? I was extremely weak and still couldn’t see objects on my left side.  I fell and crashed into things constantly.  To make matters worse, I was on blood thinners.  I was always covered in bruises.  Everything was a struggle; from the time I got out of bed until the time I crawled back in again.  I often became so frustrated that I would just scream.  I felt defeated as I needed help with everything.  I felt like I was a burden to my family and completely worthless.  I was terrified that this was what my life was going to be like from now on.

I now have a seizure disorder. I take medication to control them.

I ended up suffering through a depression –oh the depths. The darkness. The hopelessness. The feeling of worthlessness. The loneliness. The despair. The loss of my will to keep fighting. The grief for all that I lost- my career and income, many friends, my freedom (as my driver’s license was suspended), my confidence, my entire identity, my self-worth. The horrible judgments that I passed on myself were devastating. After several months I finally started receiving the treatment, both chemical and therapeutic that helped me to start climbing out of that dark hole and gave me back my will to fight.

Fear in the beginning was crippling. It was my constant companion.  I have learned to overcome fear and have come to the point now, where I can say that I refuse to live in fear. I live in gratitude for the day, today.

I have ongoing memory issues, specifically short-term, but have developed strategies to cope with it.

I faced and overcame all of it; I now work with stroke patients as a Stroke Mentor in the Peers Fostering Hope Program; it is such a wonderful feeling to use my journey to help other stroke survivors that are just beginning their own journey.

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I am an artist; I walk with friends; I walk my dog; I ride my bicycle; I lift weights; When I first started, over a year ago, I could only complete my arm lifts with 2.5 pounds. I was so weak and had lost so much weight.  I gradually increased the amount that I was lifting, and currently I am up to 25 pounds, even with my affected arm.  I run 5k on my treadmill every 3rd day and hope to run a 5k this coming summer, I lawn bowl. I smile and laugh.  I tell jokes.  I enjoy my life.   I am a wife; I am a mother; I am a friend. I am an award winner.  I recently won the award for Extraordinary Women of Kawartha Lakes in the determination category.  Most importantly, I take care of myself and my family!! I have faced the nightmare and I have wakened stronger and more whole than I could ever have imagined.

My message to everyone: Life will throw you curve balls, Life will knock you down, but you’ve got to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and overcome.  I’m NOT telling you it’s going to be easy, but I AM telling you it’s going to be worth it.

Angie also took up drawing after her stroke after a relative suggested she try it. She has used some inspirational quotes as part of her subject. Click on each thumbnail to increase image sizes.

 

For more information on the Peers Fostering Hope program and other support groups, please visit: http://bit.ly/MODCSRS

 

To volunteer with peer visits, please call the Stroke Recovery Warmline® at 1-888-540-6666.

Turning Points: Bob Dutru, William Blodgett, Sangeeta Chaudhari

Turning Points

Today in Canada there are over 300,000 stroke survivors. Stroke Recovery Canada is helping ease the recovery process and these survivors are surviving and thriving! Over the next couple of weeks on Tuesdays and Thursdays we’ll be sharing some of these “Turning Points” – the moments when these stroke survivors realised there was hope post-stroke!

Here are our next three Turning Points:

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“I’d say the day I got my license back after not being able to drive for 8 months!”

– Bob Dutru, Niagara


William Blodgett Bike

“My turning point was when I learned that I could still ride my bike and swim, albeit not as well as I would like…however practice makes it worth some more.”

– William Blodgett, Peterborough Ontario.

William Blodgett Swimming


Sangeeta Chaudhari

“The day I returned back to volunteering at a school near my home. I feel I am making a difference and it makes me feel proud. I am once again giving back to my community.”

– Sangeeta Chaudhari – Milton, ON


Make sure you check out our entries too!

Turning Points: Tom Rideout, Marg Cyr, Judy Mostow & Margaret Kindree

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Today in Canada there are over 300,000 stroke survivors. Stroke Recovery Canada is helping ease the recovery process and these survivors are surviving and thriving! Over the next couple of weeks on Tuesdays and Thursdays we’ll be sharing some of these “Turning Points” – the moments when these stroke survivors realised there was hope post-stroke!

Here are our next four Turning Points:

Tim Rideout

“My turning point was coming to my first peer support meeting and learning that life does go on after a Stroke.”

– Tom Rideout, Toronto


“Our turning point came when Ted and I joined Survivors of Stroke.  It was from them that we learned how to deal with the challenges of stroke and that while our lives were irrevocably changed, there was life after stroke.

– Marg Cyr, Niagara


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“Every year!! I see subtle changes every year as I try to live my new life to the fullest.  I am now celebrating 10 years post stroke, and my new life is full, rich and rewarding.”

– Judy Mostow, Thunder Bay


 “After my stroke I could not spell or do Math.  Rehabilitation and my family helped me relearn spelling and math.  This encouraged me to continue to try more things – playing solitaire, sudoku and getting my driving license back and continuing to write letters.  I am now working on crossword puzzles.  Small things are “Turning Points” for all of stroke survivors.”

Margaret Kindree

  “This is a picture of me and daughters – from left to right Cindy, Valerie, Monica and Margaret – they all helped me after my stroke.”

– Margaret Kindree, Oshawa

Turning Points: David Ingram, Donnie Miller & Donna Ribotto

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Today in Canada there are over 300,000 stroke survivors. Stroke Recovery Canada is helping ease the recovery process and these survivors are surviving and thriving! Over the next week we’ll be sharing some of these “Turning Points” – the moments when these stroke survivors realised there was hope post-stroke!

Here are our first three Turning Points:

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“After spending 3 days in ICU and looking at an item hanging on the wall, my turning point was to be able tell my girls it was a Fire Extinguisher. My second turning point was when I was able to print all the letters in the alphabet. The first time I tried I could only come up with 16 letters. I could give you dozens more but these two are significant to me. “

– David Ingram, Lindsay


Donnie Miller

“Shoveling snow this winter for the first time since 2011.  Finally being able to help my family with domestic chores”

– Donnie Miller – Stroke Survivor since 2011. SOS Niagara


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“The turning point came when I realized that all those travelling on the detour were my true companions and my new tribe.  The road is still rough, and hard to travel, from time to time, but knowing there are others helping and understanding makes it a road well-travelled. Wishing you blue skies and a happy heart.”

– Donna Ribotto, Thunder Bay