Sunday, January 26, 2014

Stroke Camp is a “safe adventure”

By Monica Vest Wheeler

“Safe” is one of those words that has so many meanings, from protected and guarded to that box where we lock away our precious material possessions. “Adventure” is described as an exciting or unusual experience, which may involve risk.

From the moment I arrived at my first Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp in June 2008, I discovered that the terms “safe” and “adventure” are perfect and fitting companions, and beautifully describe the camp experience.

As a volunteer and while collecting information for my books, I've interacted with hundreds of campers over the years, and a frequent theme of “courage” emerges. It does take a tremendous amount of courage for many stroke survivors and their caregivers to venture out into the “normal world,” where the effects of stroke may be glaring to the uneducated, with physical, emotional, cognitive, speech and other challenges.

During the numerous conversations I've had RRSC executive director Marylee Nunley, we've often noted the “safe” component of camp, where survivors and caregivers have a chance to share experiences in much more depth than the standard hour-long monthly support group setting. It's so refreshing and rewarding to engage in each other's lives and “live together” for nearly 48 hours.

At the same time, they don't worry about people staring at them in curiosity or simply ignoring them. Everybody at camp “gets it.” Do you realize how important, how fulfilling, how empowering, how human that is? Being accepted when you have difficulty speaking, when you need a wheelchair to get around, when you need some help cutting the meat on your plate? Do you know how incredible and amazing it is to have fellow caregivers who understand similar challenges and joys?

I've witnessed countless survivors and caregivers take risks they wouldn't consider exploring elsewhere. What are those “big” risks? Playing the drums, asking questions, playing games, allowing themselves to be pampered, singing or performing in front of an audience, acknowledging their fears, sharing what's on their heart, and laughing, laughing, laughing! Stroke Camp is the largest cheering block most of our families will ever find in a post-stroke world, and for some, it's a stepping stone to discovering even bigger and better adventures and audiences awaiting the gifts only survivors and caregivers can offer.

Start packing your bags! Another great Stroke Camp adventure is in the works! Tell other families they need to experience the safest adventure of their lives this year!

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

OMG...how beautifully put!