Sunday, June 28, 2020

How Healthy Sleep May Prevent Strokes


While at our Lincoln stroke camp, August 2013, I met Marcia Matthies, Outreach Coordinator for the Nebraska State Stroke Association. She gave me permission to reproduce on our blog any article they have on their site.

This article is packed with information on sleep apnea, and includes many links to even more information.

The following is taken from the Nebraska State Stroke Association web site ( 

Thank you Marcia

How Healthy Sleep May Prevent Strokes
March 31, 2020

Since stroke is the fifth most common cause of death in the United States, people are eager to find ways to prevent it. Research suggests that sleep health is a major factor related to stroke risk. There is strong evidence that obstructive sleep apnea in particular significantly increases a person’s risk of having a stroke.

This page contains an overview of the many research studies on sleep health and strokes. It also contains information on how to prevent sleep issues that could potentially increase a person’s risk of having a stroke. While the link between sleep health and stroke is not perfectly understood, improving one’s sleep health is beneficial in general, and likely also beneficial in regards to stroke risk.

How Sleep Health Can Cause or Prevent Strokes

Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. A stroke happens when a blood clot travels to the brain and blocks a blood vessel, or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. The following are signs of stroke:

Sudden numbness or weakness, often on one side

Sudden difficulty speaking or understanding
Sudden severe headache
Sudden sight problems
Sudden dizziness or trouble walking

Because strokes can be so deadly and damaging, researchers have been studying how to prevent them for decades. They’ve found many factors that put people at risk for stroke. Some are uncontrollable, such as race, age, the presence of certain genes, and having a low birth weight. Other stroke risk factors include physical inactivity, high cholesterol, high salt intake, high alcohol intake, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, cigarette smoking, and more.

Researchers have found that there is a connection between sleep and strokes. The connection between obstructive sleep apnea and strokes is the most well-documented, though there is also a connection between strokes and other sleep disturbances. The following sleep issues are potentially related to strokes:
Obstructive sleep apnea
Central sleep apnea
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
Periodic Limb Movements of Sleep (PLMS)
Sleep loss
Too much sleep

Source: Journal of Stroke

Can Sleep Apnea Cause Strokes?

While researchers do not confirm that there is a direct cause-and-effect relationship between sleep apnea and stroke, they do state that the disorder is an important risk factor for stroke. People who have sleep apnea should take their stroke risk as seriously as those who have high blood pressure or diabetes, or who smoke cigarettes. There are several ways obstructive sleep apnea impacts the body that might explain why it increases stroke risk:
Increased sympathetic nervous system activity
Increased inflammation
Reduced insulin sensitivity
Decreased ability to break down fats
Other cardiovascular and metabolic dysfunction

Researchers recommend that stroke patients undergo a polysomnography, or sleep study, to test for obstructive sleep apnea. Many stroke patients end up having another stroke. Treating obstructive sleep apnea through the use of a CPAP machine may reduce the recurrence of stroke.

A connection between central sleep apnea and strokes has not been confirmed, but central sleep apnea is clearly connected to cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular problems are closely associated with stroke, so it could be that a clearer link between central sleep apnea and strokes will be found in the future. Anything that negatively impacts the cardiovascular system could potentially increase stroke risk.

One study on obstructive sleep apnea noted that disturbed sleep increases the chance of obesity both directly and by leading to increased food intake and decreased physical activity. Obesity increases the chance of developing obstructive sleep apnea, which along with other factors, increases stroke risk. In this model, disturbed sleep does play a role early on in the path to stroke.

Source: Sleep Medicine and Disorders

Other Sleep Issues and Stroke

Sleep apnea isn’t the only sleep-related issue that increases a person’s chance of stroke. One study showed that non-apnea sleep disorders (NSD) increased stroke risk, particularly in men and the elderly. Non-apnea sleep disorders refers to any sleep disturbance that can’t be attributed to sleep apnea, such as insomnia, sleep disturbance, hypersomnia (too much sleep), disruptions of the 24-hour sleep/wake cycle, sleep-related movement disorders, and any other sleep problems.

Sleep duration is also related to stroke. One study found that both people who sleep less than five hours or over nine hours per night are at an increased risk of dying from stroke or heart attack. This result held true regardless of age, sex, race, smoking status, and body mass index (BMI). While the reason for abnormal sleep duration wasn’t studied, it’s likely that some of the people not obtaining enough sleep have insomnia.

Another study found that people who slept over ten hours per night were more likely to die from cardiovascular problems, including stroke. This could be due to poorer health in those sleeping for longer durations, however.

Studies suggest that movement disorders such as Periodic Limb Movements of Sleep (PLMs) and Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) are also potentially related to stroke incidence. One study found that more PLMs are associated with White Matter Hyperintensities (WMHs), a blood vessel state that can precede stroke and other cardiovascular issues.

How to Lower the Risk for Stroke With Healthier Sleep

Research demonstrates a connection between sleep issues and strokes. There is strong evidence that having obstructive sleep apnea puts a person at a higher risk for stroke. There is also a clear correlation between sleep duration and stroke incidence, with people who sleep both too little and too much being at greater risk for stroke.

The relationships between stroke and other sleep problems aren’t as certain, though it appears that movement disorders such as Periodic Limb Movements of Sleep (PLMs) could put people at a greater risk of stroke.

Given all of the research on stroke and sleep, people wanting to lower their risk for stroke might consider improving their sleep quality. Anyone suspecting they have a sleep disorder of any kind should consider seeing a sleep specialist and possibly undergo a polysomnography, or sleep study.

Sleep studies and other testing can help doctors determine if a person would benefit from sleep medications or other sleep-related treatments.

Preventing and Treating Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a disorder in which the sleeper has trouble breathing throughout the night. It increases a person’s risk of stroke and is often accompanied by snoring. Here are evidence-based methods for preventing obstructive sleep apnea:
Weight loss in people with obesity
Avoiding the back (supine) sleeping position
Cessation of cigarette smoking

Doctors generally treat sleep apnea by instructing patients to use a CPAP machine, which blows air into the nose and mouth throughout the night. Researchers suspect that CPAP machine use could potentially prevent Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIAs), which are essentially mini-strokes. Their research was preliminary, however, and they recommend larger, controlled studies to determine how well CPAP machines prevent TIAs.

A recent study reported that CPAP machines can reduce the recurrence of stroke and death in patients who have already had a stroke. Other studies show that CPAP machine use decreases blood pressure. This effect is even seen in patients who have high blood pressure that is resistant to treatment.

Since high blood pressure is a risk factor for stroke, CPAP machine use could potentially reduce stroke risk by lowering blood pressure, even in people who have never had a stroke before.

Sleeping for a Healthy Duration

What is considered a healthy amount of sleep depends on a person’s age. People who consistently have trouble sleeping within the healthy range for their age might consider seeing a sleep specialist and undergoing a sleep study. Healthy sleep durations for each age group are as follows:
Newborns: 14 – 17 hours
Infants: 12 – 15 hours
Toddlers: 11 – 14 hours
Preschoolers: 10 – 13 hours
School-Aged Children: 9 – 11 hours
Teenagers: 8 – 10 hours
Adults: 7 – 9 hours
Older Adults: 7 – 8 hours

Sleeping too much or too little is associated with an increased incidence of stroke. There are many different reasons a person might sleep too much or too little, and actions to improve sleep duration will vary depending on the individual. If there is an underlying physical illness or mood disorder affecting a person’s sleep, treating that is important.

If not, there are other actions people can take to help them sleep an ideal amount, such as:
Block out unwanted sound using earplugs or a white noise machine
Avoid drinking excess amounts of alcohol, particularly before bed
Avoid caffeine and other stimulants, particularly before bed
Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day to create a healthy circadian rhythm
Block out light using a sleep mask or blackout curtains
Adhere to a bedtime routine

Preventing and Treating Periodic Limb Movement Disorder
Research shows that Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD) could contribute to stroke risk. PLMD often overlaps with restless legs syndrome (RLS), narcolepsy, and sleep apnea. The following are ways to prevent and treat PLMD:
Test for other sleep disorders and treat them as necessary
Check medications’ side effects as limb movements can be a result of medications
Test for and treat any other underlying health issues that often accompany PLMD, such as anemia and diabetes
Exercise regularly

Final Thoughts

Sleep issues are one of the many risk factors for stroke, alongside other factors such as obesity, diabetes, cigarette smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high alcohol intake, high salt intake, physical inactivity, and more. Preventing strokes in individuals and the larger population likely requires a multipronged approach. One strategy for preventing stroke is improving sleep health.

Obstructive sleep apnea is the sleep disorder that has been studied the most in terms of its relationship to stroke. People who have obstructive sleep apnea are at a much higher risk for stroke than people who do not have the sleep disorder.

Central sleep apnea might also contribute to stroke risk since it increases cardiovascular problems. As of now, however, the link between central sleep apnea and stroke risk is not as clearly defined as the link between obstructive sleep apnea and stroke risk.

Other sleep issues beyond apnea appear to also affect a person’s stroke risk. These issues include an abnormal sleep duration, whether that is too much or too little sleep each night, and sleep movement disorders.

Although researchers cannot guarantee that improving sleep will prevent stroke, it is a healthy action worth taking. Early research suggests that CPAP use can reduce stroke risk in people with sleep apnea.

As more sleep-and-stroke-related research is conducted, more connections will likely be found. Pursuing healthy sleep is a worthwhile endeavor anyone, but may have additional benefits for people wanting to prevent stroke.

Additional Resources

If you’re interested in strokes and sleep, these articles might also be of interest to you:

Sleep-Related Breathing Disorders
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Heart Disease and Sleep
Sleep Health
New Study Finds Sleep Apnea Treatment Can Reduce Hospital Readmissions

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Strike Out Stroke event at Dozer Park


If COVID-19 hadn't happened, June 19th would have been our local 12th annual Strike Out Stroke event at Dozer Park - Home of the Peoria Chiefs! It's always a fun night of stroke awareness, family, and baseball! 

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Typically our very own Chime Strokers group open the evening by playing the National Anthem and 'God Bless America' on their hand held chime instruments.

Next, we all watch the OSF Life Flight helicopter descend and land in the center of the ball diamond. 

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The Grand Prize winner of the POSTER CONTEST for the Youth Education on Stroke program along with a parent, gets out of the helicopter to walk to the pitcher's mound to have the honor of throwing out the first pitch!

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Winner and Dad

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Winner and Mom

(We display the other winning posters throughout the park for people to see and learn). 

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Then it's game time where we all cheer on our Chiefs and spread the message of BE-FASTER!! 

We do pitch-in-for charity to raise money for United Stroke Alliance, and people win BIG prizes by throwing tennis balls from the stands into large rings positioned around the ball field!! 

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The night usually ends with a fantastic display of fireworks!...oh how we will miss it this year. But we have these wonderful memories of last year's (2019) game to get us through until next year!

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Jan Jahnel on the right Pam Casper on the left

This fun filled day at the semi-pro Peoria Chiefs ball park, and the ability to save lives, would not be possible without the help of OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, Jan Jahnel, their Illinois Neurological Institute Stroke Coordinator, United Stroke Alliance and Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

What is a Stroke Camp?


MaryLee Nunley of Peoria, Illinois, a caregiver, shares what it’s like to attend stroke camp with her husband John Nunley, who was 55 at the time of his stroke. Now married 24 years, Marylee is the founder of the non-profit organization United Stroke Alliance and is currently head of its Stroke Camp division.

After her husband had a stroke, this caregiver founded a nonprofit stroke camp, which offers support and reduces stress for both 
caregivers and stroke survivors.

Saryn Chorney, an independent freelance writer for Readers Digest , interviewed Marylee for inclusion in their newsletter. What follows is that portion of the interview about Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp.

I Went to Stroke Camp. This Is What It’s Like

Saryn Chorney
Updated: Jun. 04, 2020

What is a stroke camp?

Our first stroke camp

John and I started our first stroke camp in 2004 as a place people could go to relax and have fun. The first stroke camp location was at a church that I had attended as a youth and where my sister and her family had held camps for children with cystic fibrosis (prior to John’s stroke).

We had support from a local hospital and a local neurologist to fund the first camp. John had volunteered for a cystic fibrosis camp before we were married, so he knew what a difference it could make for people struggling with [similar] challenges. He was very glad to be entering into this new venture.

Stroke camp accommodations

Camps are held in a variety of locations, and accommodations vary from more of a camp setting all the way to hotels and retreat centers. Each unit for stroke survivors has a private room with a private bathroom. These are 3-day weekend retreats that cost $125 per person. They are located all over the country, although some have been delayed or rescheduled due to Covid-19.

The stroke camps are intentionally small in order for survivors and caregivers to enjoy an intimate setting where they really get to know each other. They are typically groups of 18-20 survivors, their caregivers (not required if the survivor is independent), and volunteers from sponsoring hospitals.

Hospitals, foundations, rehab centers, and stroke centers provide volunteers, and our non-profit organization provides a team to lead the weekend, for a total of about 60 people.
Meals, physical activities, and self-care

Meals are usually pretty nice and served buffet style; there is variety and dietary needs are met. Saturday night’s meal is always something special. Activities are adapted so everyone can participate, they include discussion, pampering, education, socialization, support, crafts, outdoor activities and more. There isn’t much “down time,” but naps are possible.

A lot of chatting takes place, crafts are available and board games abound. Some locations have boating and swimming, so there’s never time to be bored. Pampering time (pre-pandemic) includes mini-manicures, chair massage, warm paraffin hand dip, crafts, foot and leg massaging equipment, relaxation with music, sometimes yoga, and chair Tai chi.

I had been involved in church camps and another camp for disabled children [in the past], so I was pretty confident the retreat for our stroke friends would be fun and fulfilling. As my husband often says, he loves to greet campers as they arrive unsure what they’ve gotten themselves into.

John’s favorite activity is the pampering chair massages and paraffin hand dips, complete with a hand massage. He also just loves to sit quietly and visit with campers as they arrive, and see how they react to this unique event. My favorite time is the discussion circles with caregivers and our Saturday night show where we encourage dancing and offer a sort of a “date night” atmosphere for everyone.

At stroke camp, [people] dance in their wheelchair or with a cane, that doesn’t always happen elsewhere in society. Watching [the weekend] unfold is a beautiful thing. Each year we have a specific theme; 2019 was the Hollywood Red Carpet theme.

A break for stroke family caregivers

The thing that surprised me is how unique [our camp was]. Hardly anyone else was doing anything similar, so that’s how the nonprofit came to be. The Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp has a 70% return rate, so we know that we’ve succeeded in putting together a good program.

The feedback we hear most is that people feel “normal” for a weekend. They enjoy the camaraderie and encouragement, and they often say it gives them a reason to keep working hard and trying as they see people many years post-stroke still improving.

Caregivers are happy to get a break from the day-to-day responsibilities since the group activities engage everyone. Not having to plan or cook six meals is also on the top of most caregivers’ lists.

The biggest challenge for me as a caregiver is that there is always something that needs to be done: always another task, appointment, load of laundry, prescriptions to be filled, pills to be counted out, meals to cook, nails to trim, housework to do and more.

I think the biggest relief for caregivers at the camp is that there are discussion times where caregivers meet with only caregivers and volunteers, and they are free to say whatever they want in a safe and confidential setting.

[editor note: and survivors meet with only survivors]

Sharing and having others understand and validate your journey is priceless. There are also a lot of tips that are shared and things are learned that you don’t hear at a doctor’s office. I learn something new at each and every camp I attend.

John and I married later in life and his stroke was 4.5 years into our marriage. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that much of [caring for a survivor] is like childcare, especially because of John’s aphasia, or language impairments, and cognitive deficits. I don’t treat him like a child, it’s the being in charge of someone else’s life that’s like childcare.

Much of it doesn’t show outwardly when meeting him for a short time in a social setting. The fact that he can’t read, manage any of his medical needs, medications, etc. puts me in the position of having to be in charge of a lot. We are still partners and I include him in whatever I can. We are in a good rhythm now, but it took years for us to adjust to the new way of life.

Stroke camp is for both children and adults

Strokes can happen at any age, even in children. Our youngest camper was six and the oldest 91 years old. For most camps, the average age is probably between 58-75. We do hold one camp we call our family stroke camp that includes young stroke survivors who are raising children. That age range is approximately 32-50.

They bring their children and we have time for the children to discuss and process what it’s like living with a parent struggling with the effects of stroke. It provides hope to this age group, and allows them to have fun and feel energized. [In general], we have more male survivors than female survivors at stroke camp.
That makes more female caregivers and fewer male caregivers.

[editor note: according to statistics, more women have strokes than men, yet our camp's turnout is the opposite.

I’ve learned a lot from male caregivers, though. One gender difference that I’ve noticed, though not universal, is that men just want to know how to get things done and do what needs to be done. We women seem to always second guess ourselves.

Stroke recovery is a lifetime of work

I always leave stroke camp revived, and that seems to be true for most our campers. At least that was the finding of a survey conducted by a research team, which published the results in a 2016 study in the journal Stroke.
I have learned that I’m not alone and there are people out there who understand stroke and the day-to-day challenges. Strokes take a lifetime of work as you continue recovery.

To be able to enjoy improved recovery for my husband, help others, and encourage them to keep trying has been the very best experience of my life. United Stroke Alliance grew from suggestions from our campers who wanted more people to know the signs of stroke, be aware of those signs, and help others to have a better recovery by responding quickly. That is how the program grew and the United Stroke Alliance could focus on prevention, awareness, and recovery.

—As told to Saryn Chorney

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp Promo Video


The following link will take you to a video of what our camps are all about as told by a stroke survivor recovering from  aphasia:

Photos taken at the Rockford, Illinois camp. Sponsored by:


Sunday, May 31, 2020

The Juggling Caregiver


The Juggling Caregiver 

By Claudia R Warner 
I'm Juggling as Fast as I Can...

June has arrived and outdoor activity is calling---the lawn needs mowing, flowers should be planted, the vegetable garden is ready for care, and some plants must be divided or they will cease to grow. Meanwhile, the house still has to be cleaned, laundry done, plus cooking and other tasks are there to do no matter what the season. And, of course the biggest job of all---caregiving to my significant other.

I fear that I am guilty of neglecting him sometimes in my rush to get out in the sun and fresh air. Digging, planting, and spending time on the lawn tractor are all wonderful therapies for me. Therein lies the conflict—do I spend more time indoors with Wes, or go out and get a good dose of nature? Hopefully, doing so makes me a better caregiver, but I do feel guilty about leaving him in the house.

He hasn’t been enthusiastic about helping me with the outdoor work—even after I got a neat little bench for him to sit on while doing a bit of weeding. The special weeding tool (guaranteed to be easy to use while seated) didn’t entice him either. The anti-gravity reclining patio chair didn’t get used, even after I bribed him with a homemade frozen latte’ to drink while relaxing in the chair.

The only solution to this dilemma was to have him supervise me from the deck or patio. Thank goodness, he does this willingly. It is nice to have him there, giving me “pointers”. Who knows, perhaps one of these days he will decide to water the flowers or even tackle a weed or two!

Father’s Day is the 21st of this month and all Dads deserve to be recognized. There are so many gifts that stroke survivors can enjoy—guys do enjoy receiving flowers and plants. How about a book or a book on tape? Jigsaw puzzles can become a family activity and the interaction and attention given to your loved one helps their self-esteem. DVD’s are another gift that can involve others. Or take Dad for a leisurely ride in a park.

The best Father’s day gift for both of us was an engraved plastic name badge. Wes has severe aphasia and while he is very outgoing and doesn’t hesitate to visit with people, there were times when this really became stressful for me. We have always been active—going to events, movies, out for coffee or lunch, etc. I noticed that people would ask him a question and when he couldn’t respond, they treated him as if he had low mentality (which is definitely NOT the case here!).

This resulted in both of us being uncomfortable. Also, I was concerned about what would happen if we were shopping, for example, and I left him to go to the restroom and he either wandered off or someone tried to engage in conversation with him. WELL—the solution to this was so-o-o easy and inexpensive that I could hardly believe it! Engraved name badges!

I purchased them online from an office supply store! (I do a lot of shopping online as it is so easy.) I got 2 of them, so we would always be able to locate one. These come in many different sizes and colors. Plus, you customize them with your own words and logos. I selected 2” X 3” dark colored backgrounds with white lettering. Since he had been an avid chess player, a chess piece was a good logo for him. There are literally thousands of designs to choose from, or you can use your own logo. They arrived in less than a week and the cost was under $18 for each badge!

His badge reads:

Wes Warner
I understand you
but it is hard
For me to talk.

You can’t imagine what a difference this has made! People read the badge and realize that he comprehends what they are saying and treat him as a person. Many of them smile and comment that sometimes they have trouble finding the right words, too! This relaxes Wes and he is able to say more than when he is tense. It is surprising to me that so many people will stop, read the badge, and then engage Wes in a short conversation. This does both of us a world of good. Yep, this is a great gift for you, too. One less thing to juggle during your busy days!

Being a great father is like shaving. No matter how good you shaved today, you have to do it again tomorrow. ~Reed Markham
Copyright ©September 2017
The Stroke Network, Inc.
P.O. Box 492 Abingdon, Maryland 21009
All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Coming to Terms with Stroke


Patience and Stroke Recovery
By David Wasielewski

Coming to Terms with Stroke

Years of personal and support group experience has led to my conclusion that patience is very necessary as each survivor comes to terms with their post-stroke lives. Along with determination these two virtues allow many survivors to travel the often long slow road to recovery. As I counsel new survivors I am careful to play down expectations for a swift and full recovery. One of the first questions we inevitably get from new support group members, “How long since your stroke?”

The answers from our folks in the group allow the newcomers to recalibrate expectations about their own recovery. Answers to their question allow them to see the reality of how long a recovery might take. Several aphasic members are five and even ten years from their event and still making progress. Some with physical deficits are a few years post stroke with permanent, lingering issues: hemiplegia, muscle spasticity, etc. These realizations can be a bit of a shock to the new survivors but are a necessary part of the recovery process.

One of the things we hope for is that these new folks realize that recovery often takes a long time, extended effort and tons of patience. The second realization we hope for is that these same folks realize that although a quick full recovery may not happen there is still reason to push forward. As each individual comes to experience the realities of their post stroke existence they will also begin see a value to managing their lives with the physical and mental challenges that remain.

A survivor may not be able to do things as quickly as they used to – but often these things still get done. ‘Patience.”. Typing one handed is significantly slower that two handed as I have learned, but it doesn’t stop me from writing these articles. “Patience”. Taking a shower takes a while longer, but planning additional time lets me complete the task and move on with my day. ‘patience.” Communicating takes more time for those with Aphasia, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have something to say. It just takes longer. “Patience.”

Patience is also a necessary virtue in caregivers. Caregiver expectations need to be realistic as they accompany their survivors on this journey to recovery. Meeting other survivors and caregivers gives these folks realistic expectations about the level of recovery to be achieved and the time it might take to get there. Watching the interaction of folks who have been there and survived relationships intact, hopefully demonstrates that the long difficult road is worthwhile and the patience that journey requires is worth the effort.

Adjusting to a new post-stroke life requires patience. Once expectations become realistic for the caregiver and survivor much of the frustration in the journey can be relieved. Patience can replace frustration. The caregiver trusts that the survivor is putting forth her best effort. The survivor trusts that the caregiver understands the time it will take to see results. Jill Bolte Taylor, a neurologist who documented her post stroke recovery has a relevant quote I appreciate. “Just because you can’t see me trying, doesn’t mean I’m not trying.” The survivor rightly asks for patience rom the caregiver.

Are there ways to accelerate this long, difficult journey? My experience tells me no. After the long journey thru recovery the survivor slowly comes to accept their new reality. Along with that, the survivor needs often develop new ways of doing things that were once second nature. This often means that accomplishing common tasks takes more time and patience.

In our younger lives learning new tasks often makes life faster and easier. Life is accelerated. This takes a while. We often get 18-20 years to make these pleasant adjustments. A stroke survivor, on the other hand, is tasked with adjusting to a slower, more challenging existence. It seems unrealistic to expect these types of adjustments to happen quickly. With time, these adjustments happen, just more slowly. It takes patience.

David had a stroke in 2005 ending his career as a logistics consultant. Since the stroke he returned to college for a Sociology degree. He is a peer counselor, facilitates a local stroke support group, volunteers at the local United Way and writes for The Stroke Network.

Copyright ©August 2017
The Stroke Network, Inc.
P.O. Box 492 Abingdon, Maryland 21009
All rights reserved.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Live By Faith, Not Superstition


This week's blog is submitted by Phil Bell, retired pastor, University Baptist Church. He is a stroke survivor, and occasionally writes an article for the local newspaper. He permits us to post them, also. He loves to write, according to his wife, Nancy. I believe writing is probably very good therapy for him.
Street & Steeple for May 1st, 2020

By Phil Bell, retired, pastor University Baptist Church
“Live By Faith, Not Superstition”

I’ll bet not many, if any of you started today by saying, “rabbit, rabbit!” I once was told that if I, the first day of the month, said that before I said anything else would have good luck for the entire month! I do not do that because I am not superstitious nor do I believe there is such a thing as luck! Any and everything which happens does so by either God’s directive or permissive will! 

Eight years ago when I had the massive stroke which left me, among other things, paralyzed on my body’s entire left side, I didn’t believe God had caused it, but that it was a result of Adam’s sin which resulted in mankind’s bodies wearing out, and sickness. One thing of which I’m sure is that God could have prevented it had He chosen to do so! The holy scriptures tell us that God is in control of the entire universe. I may never know why He chose not to stop my stroke, but He certainly does not owe me an explanation! 

As I wrote, I do not believe in superstitions. Thus, I do not quake if a black cat crosses in front of me. In fact, I dislike all cats! I don’t look for four leaf clovers nor fear breaking a mirror and would roll under a ladder if given the opportunity and a reason for doing so. 

Some people would call one thing I do a superstition. I am an avid Cubs and Bears fan! When I’m watching either of them on TV and they are behind, I will turn to watch something else awhile because when I turn back to the game, my team will be ahead! As I wrote, some would call this a superstition, but they are wrong. This is fact! So, what’s the difference between superstition and faith? 

Superstition is believing that something you do or which happens to you will affect your future for good or bad. Of course, one’s actions affect his or her future, but not by some mysterious way. 

Faith is the absolute belief in something not experienced by one’s senses nor which can be proven empirically! As Hebrews 11:1 puts it, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. ”While superstition has no place in one’s life, certainly, faith does. Faith is the only way we are forgiven by God and become His child! I put faith into practice every single day. I trust my Heavenly Father in everything I do! 

As I wrote in my book, “An Actual Step Of Faith,” “ when I was receiving physical therapy and walking with a hemiwalker, I would swing my left leg forward using my abs in a compensatory motion, then, transfer my weight to my left leg, even though I couldn’t feel it on the floor.” Yet, I moved my right leg forward. I did so by faith that my left leg would support me, which it always did! 

That is a verification that faith, though not indicated by our senses, can be relied upon! My point is don’t be superstitious, but instead be a person of faith!

-Phil Bell, retired, pastor, University Baptist Church

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Know Yourself!


Are you a stroke survivor or a caregiver? Do you know yourself? This article by Moses Cherrington, originally posted in a Stroke Net newsletter, could be of significant help.   

Know Yourself!

When we have a stroke to whatever level, our life is transformed forever.

We cannot do what we used to do, our emotional state is different, our image is now different, fewer friends visit, our social skills become constricted or restricted; each day having its own demands. we either meet those demands or as I once did, sat in a chair and looked out the window for three months.

The view was good. As I let the day go by I would reflect, and reflect, and reflect. What can I do now? I am an ex-realtor, ex-musician, and ex-salesperson who relied upon personality and communication skills to profit financially. I must get a Doctor's certificate to receive Government support and attend interviews at the Government offices to show if I am ready for work.

I reached the conclusion that if I did not know myself and my condition. I was a prisoner of my transformed life.

Know Yourself
How I have come to know myself?

What is my Condition?
The literature from the hospital gave me information in a very clinical, sterile way. I could not understand it. Medical jargon was used. The dietician interviewed me to curb my eating. I do not remember anything that we discussed as it was two weeks into my rehabilitation. My memory was non-existent.

Why is it that Non Stroke Survivors think they understand our condition?
Yes, a heartfelt sigh goes out when we mention that we have suffered a stroke. In fact tonight when a caller rang for a donation. I told them that the family was getting back on its feet as I had suffered a stroke. The caller empathized with me and apologized for disturbing me and quickly hung up apologetically.

What is our condition?
We have changed and we need to understand our changed condition. Medically we must take a variety of pills which, WE HOPE will relieve our condition, whether it is for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or the like.

1. Know your medication and side effects
Why? This is so important and let me tell you why.

The medication to lower my blood pressure had the side effect of creating more uric acid within my blood, resulting in uric acid accumulating in my joints and causing gout. For those who don’t know the pain of gout: it is like glass shards within every joint.

The pain caused by the gout in my arms and knees and feet got so bad that I had to hire a wheel chair to get from the lounge to the toilet.

Upon changing doctors, my new doctor had pointed out the effects of medication that I had been given and he changed my medication. It was from then on I decided to research the side effects of medication using the internet.

I was prescribed medication for my moods. Yes our moods do change, but the side effect of this medication was impotence.

2. Fatigue
How fatigued do you get? How do you measure how fatigued you get? What exercises do you do to get tired? I know we get fatigued, but can we get fatigued in a good way? What gyms do you have in your area? I discovered one that catered to people with disabilities and I enjoyed attending. There was no cost and it was sponsored by a local sport’s organisation that had put together a disability committee to both seek funding as well as to organise a venue.

The physio in charge at the gym for the disabled knew about fatigue and shared some strategies to help me get fitter. She knew the limitations of a stroke sufferer and our group played sport with other disabled people. I could empathise with them, especially those in a wheel chair who were more severely disabled than I.

3. Food intake
How is your food intake? Are you overweight? If you lost 5, 10, 15 lbs would it make a difference?

I have just lost 13 lbs and I can now fit into my trousers. So what, you may ask? Down here in New Zealand there is a little button on the inside of our trousers that my stroke hand must do up for me to wear my trousers. Some days I give up, other days I persevere.

4. Build our Networks
No one tells us but, we must rely upon members of the stroke family to acquaint us with this important information because this information is vital to us to know ourselves. Build a network of people who know about areas you need to know about.

To summarise

Know Yourself

1. What medication are you taking and are there any side effects to your medication?

2. What level of fatigue are you at? Have you devised a plan to measure your fatigue? You can enjoy your sleep better by exercising your body to combat your fatigue. Are there any exercise programs for the disabled in your area? If not, initiate one by contacting your local disability club or stroke club and ask, or start one yourself. Research the internet.

3. Have you examined your food intake? I am not advocating going on a diet, but seek a weight management program to assist you to relieve yourself of any excess pounds.

I used and would recommend vitamin supplements. .

4. Think about building a network of people who are sound in knowledge in areas you desire to know. Here I would recommend which runs courses online for you to study. I have been studying law, nutrition, learning how to learn and yes, even music. All these courses are from prestigious universities in both the United States and England. The beauty of these courses is that they are FREE. Please look at the courses, there might be something you like. All are online and free.

Many thanks for your kind words for all who emailed me. Your lives and testimonies enrich my heart and may my words enrich both your hearts and your lives.

Editor’s Note: The recommendations in this article are made by the writer. The Stroke Network, United Stroke Alliance, and Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp do not endorse products.

Copyright ©September 2014
The Stroke Network, Inc.
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