Sunday, October 4, 2015

So much beauty … inside and out

By Monica Vest Wheeler
Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp Staff Volunteer

I'm smiling all the time at the Stroke Camps I attend, but a survivor this year — who was attending her first camp — put an extra big smile on my face when she asked if I'd take her photo after she had finished a session with the Mary Kay ladies who had volunteered their services at this particular camp.

Of course!

High on Stroke Camp's priority list is a pampering experience for our caregivers and survivors because everyone deserves to be pampered, especially our campers! Since I started volunteering in 2008, I've witnessed some wonderful moments … from survivors who haven't put on make-up since their stroke because they had to focus on more important things like surviving everyday life with the use of only one hand, usually their non-dominant one … to caregivers who also have more important challenges in getting everyone through everyday life in a post-stroke world.

This post isn't about women and make-up. (We've also had quite a few men who enjoyed their first-ever facial!) It's about taking a moment to focus on yourself, which everyone deserves, and to help YOU feel good about YOURSELF. We are so privileged to offer this opportunity at Stroke Camp.

That isn't being selfish or greedy with your time. It's all the human desire to refresh the image we see of ourselves in the mirror. Many stroke survivors and caregivers are either so rushed or so slowed by the effects of stroke that they forget to "stop and smell the roses," or give themselves a chance to be simply human.

It isn't vanity; it's simply feeling good about themselves, because that is one of best mental health services that can ever be offered. When we feel good about ourselves on the outside, all the vital organs that keep us going on the inside are being nourished and given a much-needed break from the stress that works overtime to break us down.

Yes, there is so much beauty at Stroke Camp … inside and out …

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Famous Stroke Survivors

The following is reproduced from the Strokewise website hosted by 
David Valiulis: 

I encourage you to visit his site as it contains a large quantity of interesting information.

Famous Stroke Survivors

Art Linkletter

Bette Davis

Bob Barker

Charles Schulz

Della Reese
Dick Clark

Ed Koch

Eli Wallach

Esther Williams

Evel Knievel

Frankie Muniz Reveals He Suffered a
Frankie Muniz

Gerald Ford

Helen Keller

Hugh Hefner

Isaac Hayes

James Cagney

James Garner

Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr.

Kirk Douglas

Larry Flynt

Margaret Thatcher

Mark Kirk
(an article about his stroke)

Mark McEwen
(an interview with him about his stroke)

Mary Kay Ash

Patricia Neal

Pope Benedict XVI

Ray Bradbury
Sharon Stone

Ted Williams
Tim Curry

Typhoid Mary

Jill Bolte Taylor (her famous TED talk)

Monday, September 21, 2015

Stroke Camp: it all started here

By Monica Vest Wheeler
Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp Staff Volunteer

The roots for Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp run deep, from a family that simply loved the outdoors  … and later sought solace through grief by creating a camp for kids with cystic fibrosis … to one outing in 2004 for people and new friends united by the challenge of stroke, which has evolved into 23 camps in 14 states this year.

It all started and continued at a church campground called Living Springs in Lewistown, IL, just under an hour from Peoria, a spiritual haven hidden behind corn and bean fields at the end of a dusty gravel road. And there was a seemingly endless forest of every type of tree imaginable, a secluded lake embraced by tall and short foliage, pockets of comfort to reflect, and spacious and fields to run and play until exhaustion sets in.

I discovered this family and this campground in June 2008 at my first Stroke Camp, an outing I expected to be a one-time venture as I was working on a book on coping with the everyday and emotional challenges of stroke. I came as a volunteer and observer … and left as a believer in the amazing power of this mission and this facility, a blessing of God's finest creation. And I kept coming back for more and more …

And I was there last weekend for what was scheduled to be our last Stroke Camp at this facility because Living Springs is being put up for sale, and its future is unknown. Stroke Camp WILL continue for our folks in Central Illinois in the fall, but where we do not know at this moment.

And I wept often as we packed up the Stroke Camp trailer and as I picked up the road signs for the last time. My tears are for "loss" of MY first camp site and at the same time for all the joy, beauty and friendships it gave me. This is where I knew what I was supposed to do with my life, where God whispered in my ear that I would work with stroke and brain injury survivors.

I don't know what the future holds for this sacred ground, but I do know Stroke Camp will continue to grow and change lives for the better no matter where we go in Central Illinois or anywhere in this great nation. And it all started here …


Monday, September 14, 2015

How Your Brain Rewires Itself After Injury

The following article was written by Clay Nichols, Co-founder of MoreSpeech and Bungalow Software which both provide Speech & Language Software. It was originally published in their free newsletter in August 2015. Clay has given me permission to re-post his article on our blog. 

Clay has spent the last 20 years helping patients, caregivers and speech pathologists with speech & language software. He's picked up a lot of tips and tricks along the way and he shares them in his free newsletter.

I encourage you to visit his site by clicking on this link: Speech & Language Therapy Software for stroke and brain-injury survivors 

You can also click on the other two highlighted links above.

If you are interested in getting a free trial of any of the above software contact Clay using any of the above links. 


by Clay Nichols

How Your Brain Rewires Itself After Injury
And why it means recovery is possible

At one point scientists believed the brain stopped growing new neural pathways as we grew older. While certainly the first years of childhood are developmentally dynamic, the latest research shows you can grow new pathways at any point in your life. If your brain has been injured by stroke or trauma, utilizing your brain's capacity for neuroplasticity through some basic, mindful exercises can compensate for injury and respond to new situations.

Welcome To Brainville 
Here’s an analogy that have used with caregivers and survivors over the last 20 years that many have found helpful: Your brain is like a city, with roads connecting all the little areas. We'll call it Brainville.

Those roads are analogous to the neural pathways in your brain. Your brain sends neural signals along these pathways. A very oversimplified example would be: if you are trying to say the word for a picture of an apple, your brain sends neural signals from the visual cortex (which sees the apple) to the speech cortex (which would move your mouth to make the speech for apple). The actual neurology is more complex than this, but you get the idea.

That’s analogous to cars driving in our little imaginary city, Brainville (population: 1 survivor). The cars are like neural signals traveling along neural roads from one part of of the city to another.

When you have a brain injury, it’s like part of the road system in Brainville has been damaged and the road (neural pathway) is closed.

Now you can’t get from home to the library because the route you normally take is damaged. Or your brain can't access the word for library. Or car. Or road, eat, or I love you.

But, just as you’d do on a real road, you can take a detour to get around the damaged streets in Brainville. The trick is that you have to learn the detour path. That’s what rehab is: accepting the challenge to learn a new path.

How Rehab Resources Will Help

  • In future newsletter articles I'll explain (in plain-english) the relatively new view of the brain and how rehab can work with it to produce positive therapeutic results.
  • I'll outline some exercises, and discuss the importance of mindful practice. I'll also bust the myth that all of the recovery happens in the first 3 to 6 months.
  • I'll also provide links to the research that both substantiates what I cover here and enables you to do your own homework. My goal is to give you the tools and information you need to make the right decision for yourself or your patient's therapy.

Resources Coming To You

Here are the future issues I have planned to help with Speech & Language recovery:

  1. Next Issue (in a week) : Busting Recovery Myths about Stroke and TBI.
  2. Video where an famous brain scientist describes what she thought about as she was having a stroke. You may not have seen this video, but over 3.3 Million other people have. 21,782 people gave this video a thumbs up!
  3. Where to find inexpensive Speech Therapy (often on a sliding scale where you pay what you can) from the most motivated Speech Therapists.
  4. Simple Self-Therapy tips for word-retrieval with a printable Infographic you can carry with you.
  5. Free therapy worksheets for:
    • Expressive Aphasia (word retrieval) : picture naming, etc.
    • Receptive Aphasia - Auditory Comprehension
    • Reading Comprehension
    • Oral-Motor exercises for Apraxia and more...
  6. A clever use of common office supply product for Expressive and Receptive Aphasia Recovery. You probably have lots of these at home (I know I do)
  7. Free Aphasia Card that explains the deficit the patient has and what the other person can do to help.
  8. Family board games that provide the best language practice.
  9. Understanding the different types of speech & language deficits

Monday, September 7, 2015

Survivors take center stage at Stroke Camp

By Monica Vest Wheeler
Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp Staff Volunteer

One of my favorite moments during a Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp weekend is watching our survivors shine "on stage" during the Saturday night entertainment.

We have some mighty talented and amazing stroke survivors who don't let anything stop them from having a very good time, no, make that GREAT time when our audience of survivors, caregivers and volunteers are called upon to be involved. Executive Director Marylee Nunley says we are our own best entertainment, and that is one of the most important experiences of the camp weekend, being in the spotlight.

I've witnessed our survivors do everything from dancing to singing to telling jokes and everything in-between because they're given an opportunity to perform, show their talents and shine. We see the immense power of these moments because not too many forums "in the real world" give them this stage. That so-called "real world" often overlooks and frankly ignores what stroke survivors can do and are willing to do if only given the ears and eyes of an audience.

I often find myself filled with silent, yet joyous, tears as I watch survivors learn new or re-learn old talents and passions. Human beings need to be heard and seen and given a stage on which they can express themselves. It's part of our nature. Creative expression is a very powerful urge that is not extinguished by stroke. In some survivors, it is actually heightened.

I'm so proud of our survivors who find the incredible courage to take the mic or kick up their heels … How can you not love them even more!