LOCAL STROKE SURVIVOR IS CATALIST FOR SUPPORT GROUP
On a bright sunny morning in June of 2011, Kay Urdahl woke up with a noticeably weakened right side. Like most of us, Kays first inclination was to wait and see if the weakness rectified itself. After all, Kay was an active 73 year old woman who watched her health closely and whose family history was mostly free of disease and illness. Unfortunately the weakness worsened, and a trip to the emergency department at St. Johns, confirmed her suspicions - she had suffered a stroke on the left side of her brain.
Kays stroke was severe. She couldnt lift herself up out of a chair; she couldnt walk; she couldnt even talk. She spent 100 days in the Libby Care Center, where she began her recuperation before finally going home and relying heavily on St. Johns Home Health and her family to aid her in the day to day activities that used to be second nature.
Kays life has taken a dramatic turn. Before her stroke, Kay was very active. She loved cleaning her house, being outside watching the squirrels play in her back yard, and mowing her lawn. The thing that I miss the most is my independence. The stroke stole that from me, stated Mrs. Urdahl. I miss driving to go and visit with my friends. Now my family has to drive me everywhere.
Thanks to her familys understanding and willingness to help her, Kay no longer needs Home Health services, but still relies heavily on St. Johns Rehabilitative Services to help her get back on her feet. Azazel Urdahl, Kays granddaughter is just one of Kays family members doing everything she can to help her grandmother return to a normal life. Grandma pushes herself very hard, and says that shell be up and walking on her own by the summer time. It wont surprise me a bit if she is, laughed Azazel. Its wonderful how far she has already come. Rehabilitation is giving her back her life and filling her with hope. She can write her name now, and she stands without her walker. Its amazing that she has come so far because in the beginning she couldnt communicate to us what she wanted or needed. Her Speech Therapist, Karen Alexander, taught her to touch two of her fingers together for every word she says, which helps her to slow down so we can understand what shes saying. We laughed a lot right after her stroke because she couldnt talk and my English isnt very good. She would be asking to go for a walk, and Id bring her a glass of water. We made quite a pair, and sometimes wed just have to stop and laugh at the situation!
Not only was Kay dealing with all of the physical troubles that come along with a stroke, she was also experiencing emotional changes that she didnt understand. I have gone through depression, anger, and a lot of crying due to my stroke. I just didnt understand what was happening to me inside and out. Sometimes tears would be running down my cheeks and I would realize I was crying. It didnt make any sense and left me confused and angry. I just wanted to talk to others who have dealt with a stroke. I was sure they would know how I was feeling. Kays willingness to share her feelings and her strong desire and persistence to hear from other stroke survivors, resulted in the creation of a local Stroke Survivors Support Group. The group is facilitated by Karen Alexander, SLP from St. Johns Rehabilitative Services.
Alexander is thankful to Kay for motivating her to start this support group. This stroke support group is something that Ive been thinking about starting for some time now, and Kay was the motivation I needed to actually do something. The goal of the group is to bring together stroke survivors and their family or caregivers to support each other in the recovery process and help them discover new and positive directions post stroke, stated Alexander. The intention of the group is to instill hope, facilitate mutual support among group members, provide opportunities to learn positive coping strategies, and to provide an outlet for emotional release.
At the first group, we had 5 survivors and 4 family members, all of whom agreed to meet on a monthly basis. Everybody was eager to share their stories and discuss the emotional and relationship dynamics after a stroke, added Alexander.
Kay is thankful for the support group and to Alexander for organizing the event. I dont know how long it will take me to recuperate. It is a day by day learning process. I think that hearing from others in my situation has helped. Thank God I have a wonderful family who loves me and helps me; they understand my feelings. Although Im feeling better, I still barely walk, and my right arm is still not good. I have not yet learned patience maybe one day I will! This is one of the hardest things I have ever had to deal with in my life. It takes all of my energy to be the person I want to be.
The SJLH Stroke Support Group meets regularly the last Tuesday of every month from 12 noon to 1:00pm at the Libby Ambulance Barn. If you or a loved one is interested in attending a meeting, or if you would like more information about the group, call St. Johns Lutheran Hospital Rehabilitative Services at 283-7280.