Stroke Recovery Association of BC


Archive for September, 2013

Top 10 Lessons Learned

top10lessonsMy wife, Christy, had a stroke in 2005 at the age of 31. When asked to write a piece for the ‘Life After Stroke’ newsletter describing my ‘top 10 lessons learned’ as a caregiver, I was stumped. How does one distill lessons learned from a change that dramatic – and in only ten bullets? So after giving it some time and thought … here are my eleven lessons.

  • 10. I first learned that I would not wish this on my worst enemy!
  • 9. I then learned more about brain anatomy and human physiology in the first few days post-stroke than in all my years in undergraduate science lectures.
  • 8. I learned that, unlike what the medical community often espouses, recovery continues long after the first six months post-stroke.
  • 7. I continue to learn how to accept help when it is offered and to ask for it when I need it.
  • 6. I have learned the importance of remembering to take time for myself – an exhausted caregiver is no help to anyone.
  • 5. I have learned that there is always a more inspiring ‘human-spirit-overcoming-adversity’ story than
  • your own.
  • 4. I have learned to enjoy the moment (aka “Plan B… what’s that?”).
  • 3. I have learned that a sense of humour helps to lighten the often ridiculously difficult load (sub-lesson: that stroke related ‘dark’ humour is hilarious)!
  • 2. I have learned that a positive attitude is a choice. I have also learned that making that choice every day makes all the difference.
  • 1. I have learned that it is important to embrace your new life – who knew that a life-altering disaster could be so uplifting and enlightening?

Looking back on it, having somebody there to teach these lessons rather than stumble into them as I tried to find my new footing as a caregiver would have been a big help. The eleventh lesson I’m now learning is that helping newly initiated caregivers get through the early stages of recovery is part of my own healing process.

Sean Standing
If you’d like to respond to Sean’s article please email us at

Sean also sent us these links to articles about his wife Christy’s recovery:

Vancouver Sun (Front cover August 2007)
UBC Alumni Magazine- TREK (Cover Story Fall 2010)

Teresa Goff wrote the article for TREK and the award winning radio broadcast about aphasia referenced in the piece and attached link below. I encourage you to listen to it.

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Get Mobile!


Get Mobile!Physical Exercise Promotes Health and Mobility

In this issue we focus on some general principles for arm exercises after a stroke. Remember that you should consult a qualified physiotherapist to make sure the suggestions here are right for you. Always remember-every stroke is different!


Stretching is especially important for reducing spasticity (muscle tightness). A physiotherapist can teach you range-of-motion stretches. Some of these involve using your unaffected arm to move and stretch the affected arm. This can help prevent muscle shortening and joint stiffness. You can also use the unaffected hand to stretch the thumb and all the fingers on the affected hand.

A physiotherapist can instruct you on how to do stretches, but these are some general guidelines:

  • Move the arm through its full range of motion at least three times a day.
  • Gently stretch tighter muscles to a point of slight discomfort.
  • Then hold the stretch for at least 60 seconds.

Functional Arm Exercises

Using the affected arm over and over again to complete tasks is effective for helping recovery of arm movement after a stroke. The more you practice the better you get – just like anything else that requires homework. The brain learns to do tasks that it is familiar with more easily than pure exercises that are not connected to a person’s usual daily routine.

Here are some examples of activities you can try daily using your affected arm:

  • Put your fingers around a refrigerator door handle. Or put your fingers around a drawer handle. Open and close the door or drawer.
  • Hold a plastic shopping bag in your affected hand and carry it across the room. Practice putting something light in the bag before you carry it.
  • Pull laundry out of the dryer and carry it in a small bag.
  • Carry light objects, supporting them against your body with your upper and lower arm.
  • Put a tube of toothpaste in your affected hand. Try to squeeze it while you manipulate the tooth brush with your unaffected hand.
  • Flip a light switch on and off with your affected hand.
  • Remove books from a shelf and then put them back.

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My Life After Stroke

Personal Stories of Stroke Recovery

Dave BakerDavid Baker is a member of SRABC’s Maple Ridge Branch. Having a stroke has not stopped David from pursuing his favourite activity – being a songwriter. For nearly forty years, Dave has been writing and singing songs about the west coast of Canada. Raised in Nanaimo and Duncan on Vancouver Island, Dave is eminently qualified to write about the lifestyle, and the many historical personalities and icons that have contributed to the development of the area.

My name is Dave Baker. I had my stroke in 1998 at the age of 54. Prior to my stroke, I raised a family of three and had a successful career as a mechanical engineer in the pulp and paper industry. Also, as an avid hobby, I wrote, sang, and recorded folk songs about BC. Over the years I produced 3 record albums and three CDs of my music. They basically got very little attention but my songs did appear on the national music charts. Now, choirs all over Canada are performing and recording my work!

When I had my stroke I lost mobility and lost my singing voice. Over the next few years, I did very little but finally decided I should promote the songs that I wrote mainly in the 1970s. I began working with Vancouver composer/arranger Dr Larry Nickel who created choral arrangements for choirs for many of my songs. Since then I have been very successful with several of my songs. Locally, the Chor Leoni Mens Choir, the Vancouver Welsh Men’s Choir, and the Orpheus Male Choir have performed and recorded several of my songs. Now a number of my songs can be found on YouTube, performed by various choirs. This is very exciting for me. I’ve been in the business for over 40 years and am finally getting somewhere!

I have just experienced the crowning achievement of my music career. A video has been produced about the life and paintings of Emily Carr. As a soundtrack they are using my song “World of Small” performed by the Nickel Studio Singers featuring highly regarded Vancouver baritone Steve Maddock as soloist. You can view the video by clicking on this link .

To learn more about me you can go to

If you want to contact Dave about his wonderful achievements please send a message to

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The View of a Caregiver Looking Back


My husband survived for five years after his massive stroke that left him completely paralyzed on his left side. It is only four and a half years after the loss of my beloved husband, that I able to calmly reflect on the experience. When I took on the role of a caregiver, I did not see myself as such. I was simply a wife reacting to the unthinkable – of losing the man I once knew, who was the center of my world. The journey took me through the discovery of the workings of our Canadian health system. The framework was there to be implemented, but I found that the humanity and respect in everyday life was amiss. I struggled in disbelief and frustration. As a caregiver, I found myself trying to understand why I had to fight for the very basic rights of human dignity and respect for one who was at his most vulnerable. My whole world, and that of the children changed.

There was only time to get through the day-to-day. The health system was there to support us physically, but the learning and acceptance could only come from within ourselves. I started to question and search for the best solutions to sustain and later to improve the condition of my late husband. I realized early in the game that I had to be the person who asked questions without fear. I listened, questioned and utilized the existing systems that were in place. I kept my ears open for programs that my husband could qualify for. I listened and asked for help and support. I opened myself up for suggestions and information on how to go about getting things done.

My husband’s grown-up children were affected as well. The term “stroke” was no longer a mere word. “Stroke” took on a life of its own and we lived with it every day. This became normal life. Yet through these challenges, the glue that held the family together was love. Love and patience were the ingredients to self-discover the unlimited or limited ability to give of oneself.

Caregivers are only alone until they reach out for support. We have the ability to change and improve our health system when we are still lucid. I like to believe our society is still a caring one. We just need to be reminded we are all the same and sooner or later, we, the healthy ones will need help when our turn comes. Caregivers of our loved ones are the spokespersons to encourage the good in our health system and to keep improving it where needed.

Sophia Radelet-Ong
If you’d like to respond to Sophia’s article please email us at

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