"You've Had a Stroke."
My personal journey with Bruyère.
The temperature is dropping and the leaves have fallen to the ground. I imagine you, like me, are starting to think about the holidays. Maybe you’ve started your shopping list, and are planning a big meal with family and friends. This year, I am so tremendously grateful to have the chance to keep celebrating the holidays with family and friends.
“You’ve had a stroke.” These were the last words I expected to hear on March 13, 2017 After all, I was healthy, I was active … and I was only 26 years old.
I woke up that morning feeling like something was a bit off. I was a little dizzy, and my left side wasn’t really cooperating. I rested a while longer before heading off to the Park and Ride as usual, where I’d leave my car and catch a bus into work. When I look back, I’m not really sure how I made it, but as I walked toward the bus stop a man in a City of Ottawa truck stopped me: “Do you need help?” he asked.
I was hardly able to walk and was leaning to the left. My automatic response was, “no, I’m fine.” But I wasn’t fine. Something was seriously wrong. I called my boyfriend (now husband), Brendan, and asked him to come and get me. I knew I couldn’t drive my car home. He jumped in the car and headed my way. In the meantime, that kind stranger who had seen I was struggling called 911. Thank goodness!
The police who answered the call showed up right before Brendan did. Since I had made an appointment with my family doctor for that afternoon, I told them I’d just wait and get checked out then. But the police officer strongly suggested I be seen by the paramedics. Again, thank goodness!
Next thing I knew, I was being rushed to the hospital and things happened pretty quickly after that. After two CT scans and two MRIs, I heard those fateful words: “You’ve had a stroke.” It was the last thing I expected and I was completely in shock. With Brendan by my side, holding my hand, we began to absorb the news. He was my rock: calm and reassuring when I needed it the most. The next seven days in hospital are a bit of a blur, but I had Brendan and family members by my side. I had wonderful support both at the hospital and at home.
My shock soon turned to determination. Determination to get better. It was time for rehabilitation and that’s when the hard work really began. That’s where Bruyère enters my story.
As I walked through the doors of Bruyère, I immediately felt comfortable. Everyone was warm and welcoming, and they were singularly focussed on helping me get back on my feet, quite literally. I already knew Bruyère was the best place in the region for me to be. They have the experts I needed for my recovery. But what I didn’t expect was how amazing the interaction with the staff would be. They really care about you, and when you’re recovering from something traumatic like a stroke, having people that care and support you in your rehab journey is invaluable.
I was certainly in the best hands. Twice a week I went to Bruyère. At first we focused on physiotherapy. I had double-vision and I couldn’t walk, so we had to start with the basics. The therapists were patient and took the time needed to help me get to the next stage, which was to add occupational therapy to my treatment. And that process continued: patience and hard work, and progress along the way.
I’m happy to tell you that I’m now back to work and feeling close to 100 percent. I get a little more tired than I used to, but that’s the only major after effect of my stroke. Amazing, isn’t it? I look at life differently now!
One thing I realized is how important love is, so Brendan and I decided to get married right away. Why wait? You just never know what the next day may bring and life is short.
I hope by sharing my story, others will understand and pay attention to symptoms of stroke. I also really hope I can help spread the word about how fortunate we are to have Bruyère in our community. My experience with Bruyère was amazing, but that was due in large part, to donors. Donors have made so much possible. I had access to the latest in stroke rehabilitation technology. From the use of virtual reality therapy, to computer ‘games’ that help increase brain function, I used many of the tools you made possible, with our community's generosity.
I hope you will join me in supporting this world-class institution, that we’re so lucky to have right here at home.
P.S. I no longer take my good health for granted. Things can change without any warning at all. I appreciate Bruyère so much for the fact that I’ve recovered so well and so quickly. Thank you for the part you’ve played in that, and thank you for considering your support to ensure that Bruyère is there for us, our loved ones and our community for generations to come.