Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Let Me Tell You A Story About Stroke Recovery

Receiving  a 2012 Volunteer Recognition Certificate for outstanding volunteer service to the public library of Prince Edward Island and Montague Rotary Library.

Stroke Survivor Gary Gray receiving volunteer recognition award from Minister Allan F. Roache (R) and Mayor Richard Collins (L) photo by Swarna Chandrasekere

This noteworthy milestone in my stroke recovery life gives proof that stroke survivors can recover to a level that will allow them to give back to their community. In order for a stroke survivor to reach this level of recovery they must regain the confidence to work with groups made up of people who are not stroke survivors.

Of course stroke survivors can achieve this level of recovery. Let me tell you my story.

As a stroke survivor we would find it absolutely amazing to stand up to receive a certificate of volunteer recognition for working with a group who are not survivors. Who are in fact members of the community at large. Well there I am receiving just such a certificate from the Provincial Minister of innovation and advanced learning along with the Mayor of the community where I now reside.

How did this happen? After my stroke in 2002 I began the first of many trips to the local library to obtain books about stroke. As my trips grew more and more frequent I became well known to the Librarian.  Along about six years post stroke she invited me to take part in a writers group which had been formed as part of the libraries Winter activities.

This group had no stroke survivors and was made up of library members at large who had an interest in writing. I thought,  this might be an opportunity to help my brain recover in both logical and creative thinking, as well as provide much needed help for my writing skills. As I began to attend the writing group sessions, I found the people to be very supportive and willing to help.

After a few months of meeting and reviewing writing pieces by members of the group, we began to kick around the idea of publishing a book of our works. The excitement mounted, as the different parts  of the book came together. A  central theme, pieces of content, images, proof reading, formatting   the front and back covers, a PDF file, a library system identification number. wow, this was really happening.

Fast forward to our June session  and all 200 copies of our book "Prince Edward Island Tales", packed neatly in cardboard boxes sat in our midst. What an amazing feeling of accomplishment.

Over the following four years two more books appeared from the group. The creative spirit had taken root within our group. Some members went on to do other things and new members took their place. Some members worked on and completed their own book projects. The writing group continued and I remained a part of it. I was more than pleased with how the therapy of writing through this group was helping my stroke damaged brain to recover both the logical left and the creative right.

In the fall of our forth year I was asked to lead the group. By doing so I have kicked my brain therapy up another notch with skill recovery in the areas of organization, time management, team building and planning.

This brings us up to where we began our story. Now, with over 30 writers on our mailing list and the number of published books growing I was asked at our last session to stay on as leader through our upcoming year. As well, I was  surprised and amazed on Monday last with the presentation of my volunteer recognition certificate by the Library.

I relate this as an example of Project based stroke recovery. This is where we identify a project. In my case it was to recover my logical and creative thinking through joining a writers group.  Set a goal such as to improve my writing skills so that I can communicate in a better way within  the stroke community. Work at it every day. The result has been an amazing level of recovery and the opportunity to become part of the greater community once again while giving back to others. Even ones outside of the stroke recovery community.

I do have other projects that help in my recovery but those are stories for other blog posts.

I would like to express a special thanks to Dr. Nancy Mayo, a Montreal researcher and member of The Canadian Stroke Network for her work within the stroke community and especially with the notion of getting on with the rest of your life after stroke.

Dr. Mayo, our meeting in the fall of 2007 has improved my post stroke recovery and changed my life for the better. - THANK YOU!!!