Monday, June 20, 2016

Memorable moments in Miami

By Monica Vest Wheeler
Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp Staff Volunteer

It was so exciting to be part of our second camp of the year and the first camp near Miami in mid-May, thanks to the sponsorship of Medtronic, in Association with Boca Raton Regional Hospital.

It's always so rewarding to be present for the birthing of the new camp, and this camp in Delray Beach was no exception. It was my first for the year, and there was much to do and learn with the new theme and activities built around a strong foundation that was started in 2004 by our founder Marylee Nunley and her husband John, a stroke survivor.

There's magic at every camp, and the Miami camp gave us many memorable moments. Here are just a few …

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Sodium: The Sneaky Source

The following is from the American Heart Association and posted on the Support Network Blog. The following link will take you to their site and their original posting:

Sodium: The Sneaky Source Of A Silent Killer in Support Network Blog

Posted on May 23, 2016 at 10:17 AM

I have highlighted a few sentences for emphasis.

by The American Heart Association

The science behind this could fill a library. The dangers of ignoring it could fill a morgue.You’ve heard it for years: Cut down on sodium. The more salt in your diet, the more problems for your body.

Chilling as that sounds, we know that too much sodium can cause high blood pressure, and we know that high blood pressure is a primary cause of heart disease and stroke, the two leading causes of death in the world. Nearly a billion people globally, and about 80 million American adults, have high blood pressure. If you’re not already in that group, be aware that 90 percent of us will develop this condition at some point in our lives. The really scary part is that millions of Americans have high blood pressure, but haven’t checked their BP, so they don’t even know it!

Sodium is sneaky, too. It goes way beyond the salt shaker. Nearly 80 percent of the salt we consume comes from some of the processed and prepared foods we buy at grocery stores and restaurants.

Fortunately, the outlook is encouraging. Making it possible for us to control the salt in our diets - and, thus, improve our health - is a priority for the people and organizations who can truly effect change.

In Washington, D.C., the Food and Drug Administration is expected to ask the food industry to join together to voluntarily reduce sodium in processed products and restaurant foods. We applaud the FDA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and others, including the Congress members who remain steadfast in their defense and support of sound nutrition policy.

Several major food companies have climbed aboard, too. We’ve seen announcements about plans to lower the amount of sodium in their products - and some already have done it.

To fully grasp why sodium control is such a crucial issue, let’s go over some basics.

Sodium is a mineral that’s essential for life. It helps your body control fluid balance, affects muscle function and nerve impulses. However, as is often the case, too much of a good thing can be a problem.

The average American consumes 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day. That’s more than double the 1,500 milligrams recommended by my organization, the American Heart Association. It’s also way above the maximum 2,300 milligrams recommended by our government in its 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

What happens when you consume too much sodium?

Water gets pulled into your blood vessels, raising the volume of blood flowing through those vessels. To put the science into everyday terms, imagine turning up the supply of water to your garden hose. The tube can handle it for a while, but over time the added pressure will cause the rubber to expand, thinning it out until eventually it can be damaged or even crack.

Switching back to the body, high blood pressure can damage your blood vessels so they can’t widen to provide all the blood flow you need. It can speed the buildup of plaque, which further blocks blood flow. It also forces the heart to work harder to pump blood through the body. And if that leads to heart failure or kidney failure, that can be a terrible outcome - one you certainly want to avoid.

Only about 11 percent of our sodium intake comes from salt we add while cooking or eating. About 12 percent comes naturally in foods. The rest? All added before the food ever gets to us. Sodium is used to add flavor and as a preservative, either to keep food safe, enhance the color or to give it a firmer texture. These are reasonable uses; again, the problem comes from too much of a good thing.

It’s also worth noting that evidence shows there are specific populations that should not lower sodium intake, such as those regularly working in extreme heat or suffering from a specific illness. Still, these are the exceptions to the rule, which we know to be that, in general, Americans need to reduce sodium consumption.

  • Within the last month, Nestle, Mars Food, Unilever and PepsiCo announced support of FDA’s plan for voluntary sodium targets.
  • Last year, General Mills announced that it already had cut up to 20 percent in many products. Domino’s, Schwan’s and Revolution Foods are among others moving in this direction. Aramark has committed to a 20 percent reduction by 2020.
  • Subway, which in 2011 was among the first major quick-serve restaurant company to voluntary cut back on sodium, continues to offer lower-salt sandwiches.
The biggest culprits in our diet may surprise you: bread and rolls; cold cuts and meats; pizza; poultry; soup; and sandwiches. After seeing such a list, you may not be surprised to learn that, just like adults, nine in 10 children get way too much sodium.

The American Heart Association is no lone drummer banging the anti-sodium beat. We’re part of a marching band of prestigious organizations all aligned behind reducing sodium intake from the dangerously high levels now consumed. This list of heavy hitters includes: the Department of Health and Human Services; the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the World Health Organization; the American Medical Association; the American Academy of Pediatrics; the American College of Cardiology; the  Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; the American Society of Nephrology; the U.S. Department of Agriculture; the American Society for Hypertension; the Pan American Health Organization; the Food and Agriculture Organization of the Americas; American Public Health Association; Institute of Medicine and more.

These organizations have studied what happens when people consume too much sodium and all concluded that we need to reduce salt to healthy levels.

This is not just a U.S. issue, either. In fact, as a country, we are late to the sodium-reduction movement. Our neighbors to the north and south — Canada and Mexico — are among the 50-plus countries that have adopted voluntary or mandatory reductions in the salt content of certain foods. The United Kingdom has been doing this for years.

So, why does opposition still exist? 

Why are people saying that all these big, prominent, science-based organizations are making too big a deal out of this?

I encourage you to investigate how and why they came to their conclusions. Feel free to study ours, too. I also recommend comparing the volume and breadth of people on each side of the fight. I believe you will come away ready to pledge to eat less salt and willing to lend your voice to the chorus seeking to change the way Americans think about and consume sodium.

We’re not saying the rise in sodium intake is the only reason why one in three Americans have high blood pressure, but we feel quite strongly that it’s a major reason for it.

The rise in our daily sodium intake and the massive amounts of sodium in our food supply also didn’t happen overnight. It’s taken years to get to this point.

All the American Heart Association, some leaders in the food industry and leading science-based organizations are saying is, let’s try going in the other direction to see what happens.
Thank you,

American Heart Association

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Would You Like To Be A Stroke Camp Volunteer

Last March of this year I posted this same article. I'm re-posting it now because now that the camp year has started it might be more meaningful to those of you who have an interest in volunteer work. We have around 28 camps scheduled this year all through the United States. There may be a camp scheduled in your area that you may be able to help with. Go to to see this year's schedule. Please call us soon as the volunteer slots fill up fast.

Will you take some time right now to listen to that little inner voice that may be directing you in a very meaningful and rewarding direction. If you do, my hope is that it is speaking to you about us.

If any of our needs listed below interest you, please feel free to contact us using the phone number or addresses at the bottom of this post for further information or to answer any questions you might have . 


Monday, May 30, 2016

From husband and wife to patient and caregiver

Kathy Hutton was a high school junior when she fell in love with her husband, David.
“It was love at first sight,” Kathy said. “He was the cutest thing I’d ever seen.”
Two years later, they were married and soon had son Graham and daughter Chelsea. David worked as a disc jockey for a local radio station and money was tight.
Kathy Hutton with her husband David, who suffered a disabling stroke two years ago.
“We were poor, so we couldn’t do much. But I remember special moments just sitting at a park and talking,” Kathy said. “That’s what I miss the most, the talking.”

In January 2014, David had a stroke after shoveling an unexpected snowfall that had kept the couple from Lebanon, Missouri, home for the day.

Kathy had been napping when she heard a crash in the kitchen. She found David, then 53, on the floor, his speech slurring. At first, she thought he was just tired from shoveling snow, but when David tried to support himself to stand, his right arm gave out.

At the local hospital, he received the clot-busting drug tPA and was transported to a stroke center in Springfield, Missouri, where testing showed swelling in his brain.

Doctors performed a craniotomy, temporarily removing the left bone flap of David’s skull to relieve the pressure. The stroke had caused significant damage to the left side of his brain.

“He lost control of the entire right side of his body,” Kathy said.

David spent several weeks in the hospital, and nearly six months in a rehabilitation center before going home.

At the time of his stroke, David was being treated for high blood pressure and high cholesterol. He had a family history of heart disease, losing family members on both sides to heart attack.

“I always figured he’d die of a heart attack too, but I never imagined he could have a stroke,” Kathy said.

Stroke is the No. 5 cause of death in the United States and is a leading cause of disability.

David now spends his days in a motorized wheelchair or a recliner chair. A home health aide comes each day while Kathy goes to work as a cemetery administrator.

Kathy Hutton with her husband David, who suffered a disabling stroke two years ago.

The Huttons, who recently celebrated their 33rd anniversary, can no longer afford rehabilitation therapy due to reductions in Medicaid benefits. David can stand briefly, but not much else. His speech is limited to a few words, along with gestures that Kathy does her best to translate.

“Sometimes he gets really angry, and so do I, because I can’t always figure out what he wants,” she said.

Kathy gets encouragement and some help from extended family and friends, as well as Graham, who is now 30, and Chelsea, who is 25.

“It’s tough,” she said. “Sometimes I feel really alone.”

On the rare occasion she can get away, Kathy goes to a movie or eats out with a friend. She found a local support group but can’t attend because it meets when she’s at work.

As hard as coping can be, Kathy said it’s the little moments she misses most.

“That little kiss you get in the car at a red light, I’ll never get that again,” she said. “That’s the hardest part.”

One bright spot for the couple has been visits from their four grandchildren, who are all under 6 years old.

“To them, he’s just grandpa and they’ll climb up on his chair and love him or try to help,” Kathy said. “They don’t see disability, they just see him as a person.”

Photos courtesy of Kathy Hutton

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Iowa: Our Season Has Begun!

Our season has begun! We already have four camps under our belt. 

Camp is all about being yourself and embracing life again when stroke works overtime... Stroke survivors and caregivers need a break from the stress of everyday life. They even need a break from each other! We know that survivors need to engage with other survivors. Caregivers need the same outlet. Our three-day weekend camps blend all the essential ingredients of what "normal" folks enjoy. 

In April we did one in Iowa, in May we did one in Miami, Florida and this weekend we have two at the same time, one in Prescott, Arizona and one near Tucson, Arizona. So far we have 28 camps scheduled for this year and there are a few more pending. As I get photos from each camp I will post a few of them on this blog.
Today I'll showcase our first camp which was in Iowa:

It's still a bit early in the spring and the trees haven't quite filled out yet.

And maybe a wee bit chilly but those Iowans are a hardy bunch. 

And all of our activities are done indoors anyway except for this evening marshmallow roast and there may be some fishing during the day if anyone is up to it.

We started taking registrations at Camp Courageous around two o'clock Friday afternoon. Of course the volunteers started setting things up way before that. Like around eleven in the morning. 

As is customary we open every camp with a drum circle.

Here we have Kyle and Lindsey, 

two of our very experienced and talented music therapists, who were also the camp directors this weekend. 

Our theme this year is the 1980's.

We start by forming teams for the Saturday night 80's game show team competitions. 

Each team chooses a name and makes a poster.

More about Saturday night later but first I wanted you to see what else we do during the day.


                            We do crafts. 

We pamper you with massages 

                                   and nail polish.

And whatever the heck this is.
(Looks like hand waxing and head massages)

Camp Courageous also has a rock climbing wall as do a couple of our other camp locations. Yes, that is a stroke survivor stepping outside his comfort zone. That happens a lot at our camps. 

Remember I mentioned the 80's and Saturday night. 

And team games

Well I can't tell you everything. You'll just have to come to a camp and see for yourself what goes on there. The camp wraps up around noon Sunday and there is a lot more going on than I can show here. 

If I can get a hold of some pictures I'll show you next week what happened in Miami last week. Rest assured, I will eventually.