Stroke Recovery Association of BC


Archive for June, 2015


Untitled3As a forensic psychologist, David Roland often saw the toughest, most heartbreaking cases. The emotional trauma had begun to take its toll — and then the global financial crisis hit, leaving his family facing financial ruin.

When he found himself in an emergency ward with little idea of how he got there, doctors wondered if he had had a nervous breakdown. Eventually they discovered the truth: David had suffered a stroke, which had resulted in brain injury. He faced two choices: give up or get his brain working again. Drawing on the principles of neuroplasticity, David set about re-wiring his brain. He embarked on a search that brought him into contact with doctors, neuroscientists, yoga teachers, musicians, and a Buddhist nun, and found the tools to restore his sense of self: psychotherapy, swimming, music, mindfulness, and meditation.

This is the story of David’s neurological difficulties and of his remarkable cognitive recovery. It is also an account of a journey to emotional health. How I Rescued My Brain is an amazing tale of one man’s resilience, and his determination to overcome one of the most frightening situations imaginable — the fear that he had lost his mind and might not get it back.

He opens his memoir with an account of finding himself in a hospital waiting room with very little idea of how he got there. His wife, Anna, is present and he vaguely remembers her driving “and me vomiting out of the car window”, but he doesn’t know what year or day it is.

Anna found Roland wandering their house at dawn, talking in a “dreamy monotone”, his skin white and icy. Initially, doctors suspect he has suffered “a psychogenic fugue: an episode of amnesia”. They send him to recuperate at a psychiatric clinic where he adjusts to his altered status from doctor to patient. “I’ve finally lost it,” Roland thinks. “I’ve had a mental breakdown.”

For the past three years, he’d been feeling depressed: his marriage was in trouble, his father died and he stopped working. Two decades of listening to patients’ harrowing stories have taken their toll and Roland’s own psychiatrist, Wayne, diagnoses him with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“My capacity for empathy had become a poison,” he concludes, while Wayne reminds him: “Your clients’ lives are better for having met you.”

He goes through hell and, after doctors discover he hasn’t suffered a breakdown but a massive stroke, he embarks on a quest for mindfulness which requires emotional intelligence and humility. He engages doctors, neuroscientists and a Buddhist nun but remains mired in legal battles concerning his property business and facing bankruptcy. Anna wants to break up, his children are scared of him and he suffers from “rubber brain” which makes him tired, confused, inarticulate. All this is narrated clearly, as Roland combines accessible passages on the science of neuroplasticity with disturbing descriptions of forgetting words and getting lost in supermarkets.

Reading and writing are significant factors in Roland’s healing so he discusses helpful texts and includes a comprehensive bibliography. Nearly 800,000 people worldwide suffer strokes every year and Roland’s memoir will be valuable to them. However, it also has the potential to alter attitudes to disability more generally. Roland captures its isolating effects and demonstrates how distressing it is to have to justify your suffering, as incapacity benefit claimants are increasingly forced to today. As he says: “I am not imagining my difficulties; they are real.”

Original article by MAX LIU in the Independent newspaper (UK). Follow link below:

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Untitled2“Stroke recovery is a long and difficult journey. However you do get better” -Jeff Kagan.

Jeff is a speaker, columnist, consultant and author following companies, products and services in wireless, telecom, cable TV and IPTV, internet, consumer electronics and tech sectors. This is his story:

Almost 11 years ago I was driving my family to the ocean for a summer vacation. It happened on the way. Not that anyone really understood what was happening. They all thought I was just being funny, asking for a cheeseburger while standing at a Starbucks. But that’s when it happened.

After spending several days in the hospital, I was finally told that I had a stroke. I think my family knew days before I did. Of course I was not able to think so sitting in the hospital was not a big deal at the time. Unfortunately healing took years, not days or weeks.

When I was told about my stroke, I had a hard time understanding. Part of my brain still worked fine. Part did not. That made it very difficult to really understand.

My first six months were actually quite pleasant. I was living in a la la land of sorts. No anger, no disappointment. Everything was bright and happy.

Then after six months when my recovery started, and I started to realize what I had lost. That’s when the dark days started to kick in.

Over the first several months I graduated from not being able to walk well and not being able to drive, to walking and driving all over again.

At first a long drive was around the corner. Then every day I went further and longer. Before long I was driving hours away from home. Not going anywhere, just driving.

That was good, but then again I could never remember when I was or where I parked the car. It was a good thing I had GPS or navigation or I would have been lost.

After several years I finally started working and writing and speaking again. I was not the best by any stretch of the imagination, but at least I started my next level of recovery.

I still had a very difficult time remembering anything new. When I met someone, and they told me their name, within a second or two I forgot. I had no memory. That was the part of my brain that died. After five or six or seven years I started to get better and better.

Today after ten years I have clients again, I write columns again, I give comments to the media again, I give speeches again. I am finally pretty much back to normal again. Today I am one of the most often quoted industry analysts in the wireless and telecom area.

Stroke recovery is a long and difficult journey. However you do get better. Some get better much more quickly than others. It depends on the part of your brain that is affected.

I have met so many fellow stroke survivors over the years. There are quite a few of us out there. We must give support and help to each other. The reason is simple; there is very little support out there unless it has to do with other stroke survivors.

If you are new to stroke, please understand this is a difficult and long journey, but recovery does take place and you will get much of your life back.

If you have been dealing with stroke for a long time and have already come through the long recovery process, please help others to understand what they can expect and how recovery will come.

I wrote two books called Life After Stroke and Stroke of Insight to help others. I am currently writing the next book in the series which is written by fellow stroke survivors and their families to help others. Stroke survivors telling their stories to help other stroke survivors.

If you would like to contribute your story to my new book to help others, I hope you will get in touch with me to discuss at


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Untitled4By Crystal Johnson, MSc, MCP, RSLP, RCC

Crystal Johnson, a registered clinical counsellor and Speech Language Pathologist, helps people with communication disorders achieve emotional wellness.

Imagine: You are living your life, with all the regular ups and downs. One day, you suffer a stroke, suddenly losing not only your mobility and independence, but also your ability to communicate. You are the same person inside, yet somehow different. A prisoner in your own head. You can’t express your thoughts and ideas clearly, yet you are still intelligent. What’s worse, you can’t even talk about this loss with those you love. You feel sad. You feel alone. You become depressed.

Traumatic life events are a common cause of depression, so it’s no surprise to find that many people with aphasia struggle with mental health issues. Impairment to communication skills after a stroke can lead to feelings of stress, frustration, anxiety, and hopelessness, while also making it more difficult for a person with aphasia to ask for and receive help.

Most speech-language pathologists (SLPs) are accustomed to encountering emotional issues with their clients during therapy, but few feel trained to offer counseling for depression. Research suggests that speech-language therapists may even be inclined to sidestep emotional issues during treatment, missing valuable opportunities to provide support.

For someone with aphasia who finds that their SLP is the person with whom they can best communicate, it is vital that the therapist is equipped to deal with their emotional needs. Crystal Johnson, MSc, MCP, RSLP, RCC is a registered clinical counselor who is also a speech-language pathologist, so we talked to her for advice on how clinical counseling can help people with communication disorders and their families.

Tell us about what you do.

In my practice, I work to provide psychological and emotional care for people who have medical conditions. With my SLP training, I have unique skills to support people with communication disorders. Working with people is my passion and I believe there is room for hope and acceptance no matter what the circumstances. I have immense compassion for my clients as I realize the courage and resilience that is present in accomplishing their daily tasks.

Medical issues almost always involve some form of stress, anxiety, depression, anger, grief and loss. If not addressed, we can get stuck in these states. My own experiences with health issues and counseling have helped me to recognize that sometimes moving forward means reaching out and leaning on others.

Though I use multiple approaches, my practice draws heavily on mindfulness-based therapies. This is particularly relevant for people with health issues as these concerns can lead to sadness for the past and worry for the future. Centering ourselves in the now can be a relief.

What drove you to change careers from speech-language pathology to counseling?

I worked for 10 years in the healthcare system and saw a consistent need for psychological support when someone faces health changes. Support that was not there. The stress of feeling helpless to meet the needs of my patients led to a spiral of anxiety and depression. I worked with a counselor myself and realized that my favorite experiences as an SLP revolved around the therapeutic relationship more than the speech therapy itself. I decided then that it was time to move in a new direction.

How does having a background in speech-language pathology help you in your counseling practice?

Over and over again, I have seen the importance of communication in how we view ourselves and in how we relate to other people.  Yet not everyone is a “talker;” sometimes due to a disorder, sometimes personality. My SLP work has opened me up to ways of communicating that go beyond simply the words we use.

What one thing you’ve learned in counseling do you think SLPs would benefit from knowing?

Definitely the importance of the therapeutic alliance. Research has shown that having a strong relationship in counseling is one of the most important predictors of change. I think this applies to speech therapy as well. It is well worth it to take time early in therapy to tend to relationship; it will facilitate faster and easier growth later on.

What one thing about communication disorders do you think other counselors would benefit from knowing?

I wish all people knew that having a communication disorder does not mean a person has cognitive impairment. It would be wonderful if everyone would address people with communication disorders with respectful language and tone.

What advice can you offer for people with aphasia who need counseling? 

Those with aphasia are dealt a cruel blow. First, they must deal with the communication disorder itself which often leaves them unable to speak or understand as they once did.  On top of that, the disorder itself leaves them unable to participate in traditional talk therapy to process the emotional component of their losses.  Unsurprisingly, people with aphasia experience a great deal of distress and they often have to deal with it in silence.  Counseling for people with aphasia needs to get creative; using communication prompts, pictures, art, and music are some of the ways we explore the psychological symptoms and help to ease some of the pain.

Crystal lives in Vancouver, BC, Canada and can be contacted at

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Untitled1Physical activity will help improve your health and improve your stroke recovery. Incorporating physical activity into your daily routine doesn’t have to be difficult — you don’t even have to have a membership at a gym. What it does take is commitment.

Thinking about adding physical activity to your life, but not sure how to get started? Sometimes taking the first step is the hardest part. If you have not been active in some time, start at a comfortable level and add a little more activity as you go along. Some people find that getting active with a friend makes it easier to get started.

Check with your doctor

Before you begin exercising regularly, check with your doctor to make sure you know your safe limits for exercising.

Is something holding you back?

Think about reasons why you have not been physically active. Then try to come up with some ways to get past what is keeping you from getting active.
Have you said to yourself . . . ?

  • I haven’t been active in a very long time.
    Solution: Choose something you like to do.
  • I don’t have the time.
    Solution: Start with 10-minute chunks of time a couple of days a week.
  • It costs too much.
    Solution: You don’t have to join a health club or buy fancy equipment to be active. Play tag with your kids. Walk briskly with your dog for 10 minutes or more.

What can physical activity do for you?

You may have heard the good things you can gain from regular physical activity.
Check off which of these benefits you hope to get from active living:

❑ Be healthier
❑ Increase my chances of living longer
❑ Feel better about myself
❑ Have less chance of becoming depressed
❑ Sleep better at night
❑ Help me look good
❑ Be in shape
❑ Get around better
❑ Have stronger muscles and bones
❑ Help me stay at or get to a healthy weight
❑ Be with friends or meet new people
❑ Enjoy myself and have fun

Build up over time

Start by doing what you can, and then look for ways to do more. If you have not been active for a while, start out slowly. After several weeks or months, build up your activities—do them longer and more often. For example, walking is one way to add physical activity to your life. When you first start, walk 10 minutes a day on a few days during the first couple of weeks. Add more time and days. Walk a little longer. Try 15 minutes instead of 10 minutes. Then walk on more days a week.

The most important thing is to get started!

For more information and ideas try this website:

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