Local support for stroke survivors

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Bob Way knows a thing or two about strokes and the long journey of determination to overcome one.

The Westlock man, originally from Newfoundland, survived a stroke on Nov. 30, 2010. His experience was so profound that he has taken up the burden of helping guide fellow survivors through the difficult and often very frustrating road to recovery.

“My left side was like it was over in the other chair,” said Way. “I couldn’t do nothing. It took three full days to be able to move my thumb, and that to me was a big, big movement.

“It’s no fun, believe me,. When you’re wide awake and know exactly what’s going on and you’re lying in the bed and you can’t do one thing about it, it’s scary.

“Really scary.”

While recovering from a stroke can be both frustrating and discouraging, Way said patients have to use that frustration to their advantage.

“Frustration leads to ambition,” said Way. “There’s no use getting pissed off, you’re already in the situation. Getting mad doesn’t help. I found that out years and years ago.

“When the nurse stands there with her arms crossed, watching you, when it takes you 45 minutes to put on one sock, and she doesn’t help, and you’re just stubborn enough not to ask, that’s progress.”

Westlock Healthcare Centre began two new programs for stroke survivors this last week spearheaded by former stroke services coordinator Kara Rimmer.

The first is a peer-group initiative that pairs Way with new patients.

“Bob comes and visits our stroke patients in the hospital for peer support so that they have somebody that has been through the journey as well that can relate to what they are going through,” said Rimmer, who now works in the emergency room.

“He’s so dedicated.”

The second initiative is a stroke-survivor support group that will meet on the second Monday of every month. On average, Westlock Health Centre treats one stroke patient a week.

“(Each session) will be a 20-minute to half-hour education session on different topics every month,” said Rimmer. “Those topics could even be chosen by the group. Then for the next hour or so I’ll be guiding conversation on a different personal growth topic.

“For the first month we’re going to explore the topic

‘Who am I?’ and how impressions of that have changed since the person had their stroke.”

Rimmer added that while the sessions are intended to educate and assist survivors, her main hope is that the sessions lead to lasting friendships.

“If people want to stick around and visit in the cafeteria and have their own personal conversations, that’s what I’m hoping will happen. That people will make connections at this groups.”

She added that the service was not limited to residents of Westlock — patients from as far away as Smoky Lake are expected to join the support group.

Rimmer said that getting the group going is the capstone of her work with stroke patients.

“It’s been a dream of mine for a couple of years,” she said. “This is such a huge, huge piece. The patients that I’ve had over the last two years have been such an inspiration. Their strength and their determination have just been incredible.

“The mountains that they have to climb after a stroke are huge. So many people face it one day at a time. I just want to encourage and support them along the way.”

For his part, Way is happy to help however he can.

“I’m available, basically, because I’m too old to do anything else,” joked the 77 year old.

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