Stroke Recovery Association of BC

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Archive for December, 2016

John Merrill’s Can-Do Spirit

John E. Merrill, III

John E. Merrill, III

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Four-time marathon and half Ironman finisher John Merrill incorporates the same self-proclaimed “can-do spirit” it took to finish the grueling races into his everyday life post-stroke.

“I don’t want to be an Olympic gold medal winner, I don’t want to be a major league player, but I do small things within my capabilities and set reasonable goals by just saying, ‘I’m going to do this,’” Merrill says.

Although he’s no longer able to run or swim, Merrill, 66, doesn’t let that discourage him. “Running and swimming were such a part of my life for so long, but I shouldn’t expect to do the things I did 15 years ago,” he says. “I don’t look back and think there’s something I could’ve done to fix history. I can only deal with the here and now.”

Merrill stays focused on his recovery by walking, meeting new people and recently began yoga. He also cares for himself and lives alone, which he admits isn’t always easy. “Picking up prescriptions and running errands used to be simple tasks, and you don’t think anything of them, but when you have a stroke they become challenging,” he says.

In June 2015, one year after retiring as a technology management consultant, Merrill, who’s also a veteran, had a stroke while alone in his home. Doctors told Merrill he was lucky. “When I got inside the hospital, the doctor turned to the rescue guy and said, ‘good job — he probably had four or five minutes to spare,’” he says. “We had a good chuckle, and I thought then that I was going to keep a positive outlook though this.”

Merrill does his best to motivate people, even those he’s never met standing in line at the grocery store. “I have two choices in life – I can accept my condition and move forward and try to be an inspiration and encourage others, or I can say ‘poor me’,” he says. “Seek out something you love and use your gifts to survive.”

Go here to read the original article:

http://www.strokesmart.org/John-Merrill

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‘Aphasia’ Producer Discusses Recovery Process

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Carl McIntyre made the movie “Aphasia” in 2010, five years after a stroke damaged 80 percent of his brain’s left hemisphere, thus severely impairing his processes of communication. Aphasia is a communicative disorder that inhibits language but not intellect, resulting in the loss of the ability to speak and listen. Despite facing this situation and receiving news that he may never speak again, McIntyre continued to make improvements.

Carl starred as himself in a short film, recounting his story to adapt to the incredible changes in his life, now, he tours around the world, presenting the movie and motivating people with his story.

Before his stroke, McIntyre worked as a teacher, actor and salesman. In the movie, McIntyre reenacts a year and a half of therapy and learning following the stroke, indicating how losing the ability to communicate changed both his and his family’s life.

“Having a stroke sucks,” McIntyre says, “Aphasia really sucks. Before I had a stroke, life was good, job is voice – actor, teacher and really good sales. But after stroke, everything’s different. I can’t speak, and I can’t read or write. Being trapped in one’s head is a prison where there are disappointments every day. I remember saying, ‘Live or die, I don’t care. I’m over life,’ – bad place, really dark, dark place. But Carl is Carl and most times I’m happy.”

McIntyre’s recovery was a multi-step process. The first step was to mourn and realize he was no longer the same as the ‘Old Carl’. He then wrote the word ‘acceptance’ on a large paper pad — the second step towards recovery. “I’m still here,” he said after writing the word. “I’m still relevant and no fear — fearless. … There is hope, hope is everything. No love, no life. … I love to live again, and I love hope. Another step in the process is hope, and the final step is progress. No matter if it’s big or small, progress every day matters. My brain is always on – and faster every year because I’m working every day. … I’m trying.”

The best advice he can pass onto future speech therapists and families is patience. “Lot of patience because today is a good day, tomorrow not too much,” McIntyre said. “But patience can never quit. … I’m lucky because friends help life back … and understand I never be the same. My brain is fine. I can’t speak, but I’m no dummy. One person understands me, I’m over the moon. I know I never be the same, and every day is hard. But every day is good too. Possibilities, endless possibilities. Aphasia still sucks, but I win every day and you can too!”

Go here to read the original article: http://ndsmcobserver.com/2016/03/hope-is-a-four-letter-word/

For more on the movie go here: http://www.aphasiathemovie.com/Aphasia_Project/Aphasia_the_Movie.html

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Balancing Caregiving with Your Career

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Caring for a stroke survivor can be a full-time job. If you’re trying to balance your caregiving responsibilities with your work, you may feel overwhelmed. If you’re finding it hard to do it all, consider these tips for balancing caregiving and your career.

  1. Talk to someone at work.Whether you speak to your supervisor or someone in human resources, it’s usually a good idea to let someone know about your situation. Your supervisor or human resources representative may have ideas or suggestions for helping you manage everything on your plate. Ask about employee assistance programs. These programs often include counseling and other services.
  2. Look into telecommuting.It’s not as important as it used to be to sit at a desk in an office. With email, video conferencing and other technology, you can communicate with the people you need to without being in the office building. Sometimes, this is called telecommuting or remote work. Telecommuting can give you more flexibility because you won’t be spending time driving to work. You can use that time to get your loved one to doctor’s appointments. If that’s not an option, talk to your boss about temporarily working at an office closer to your home if there is one.
  3. Ask about adjusting your work hours.See if your hours are flexible or if your boss prefers a fixed schedule. If your hours are flexible, look into working in the afternoons or evenings, or see if you can work a split shift. If none of these will work for you or your supervisor, see if you can scale back to a part-time position or ask whether job-sharing is an option.
  4. Explore taking leave.The Family and Medical Leave Act allows eligible employees to take twelve weeks a year of unpaid leave to care for a family member. Your job and your health insurance are protected if you take this leave.
  5. Get organized.Come up with a schedule that you can share with your family members. You’ll feel more organized and better equipped to handle tasks. List things like appointments and activities and be sure to build in some down time for yourself.
  6. Take care of yourself.That means eating right, exercising and setting aside time to unwind. It also means asking for help. Ask relatives and friends what they can do to pitch in and look for organizations that may be able to help with things like transportation and meal delivery.

Go here to see the original article: http://www.strokesmart.org/caregivers-and-career

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Beyond Stroke: Living Independently with One Arm

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We live in a two-handed world. Following a stroke or limb injury the transition from managing life with two hands to surviving with one can seem almost impossible.  This handbook provides step-by-step instructions for practical everyday life tasks and recreational activities.

The easy tools provided are simple to implement with the primary aim to live once again with confidence and independence in the real world.

Beyond Stroke: Living independently with one arm is an essential guide for anyone overcoming a stroke, people with shoulder, arm or hand injury and pain, caregivers, health professionals and community groups.

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