Sunday, March 25, 2012


This is Pat Ozella's story about her stroke experience as told by her husband Tony. Pat and Tony are members of the camp's board of directors and are very active in the camps and many of the fund raisers we have for the camp.

  Told by her husband Tony

            Saturday, Oct.20, 2001 started off as a beautiful autumn day, but ended up being the worst day in our lives. After going out to breakfast, a usual Saturday custom, we came home and I started to replace the window in our family room. Pat was sitting on the couch, drinking her coffee, watching me so she could help if needed. Just after I removed the old window, I saw her get up and stumble and then fall down (never spilling her coffee). I thought that she just lost her balance until I went over to help her get up, then I realized that something bad was occurring. She could not move her right arm and was having trouble speaking. Our daughter, Jenni (an Occupational Therapist at OSF) was on her way over to visit, so I called her on her cell-phone and told her what happened. She was sure that Pat was having a stroke and told me to call 911 right away, which I did. The Rescue Squad was there within minutes along with one of our daughters’ friends, who Jenni called and was a nurse that lived close-by. We were at OSF with-in one hour of Pat having the stroke and Jenni thought that things would not be too bad, because of getting there in time to receive TPA. The only problem was that Pats’ stroke was due to a hemorrhage in her brain, not a clot. The Doctors kept calling it a “big bleed”, which turned out being as bad as it sounded! The other problem was that it was too deep in her brain to perform any type of surgery on, without destroying more of her brain, so we just had to wait for the bleeding to stop or for Pat to die. They couldn’t tell us what to expect, but did suggest that we all say good-by to Pat, in case she didn’t survive and the Priest gave her “Last Rites”. Pat did survive!!

            After seven grueling weeks in the hospital Pat came home in a wheelchair and not being able to talk. Then we started outpatient therapy, OT, PT, and Speech. Pat had a very good attitude, which was the most important thing and really worked hard to improve; she can now walk with a cane and usually communicate what she wants by various means (some speech, actions, spelling, and expressions). We really feel fortunate, compared to other survivors’ stories about losing friends and even family after their strokes. We never lost friends; we even made new friends, thanks to our Support Group and Stroke Camp!  Another good that has happened is that Pat always wanted grandkids and now has five with one more coming to keep her busy. Pat really enjoys going to Camp, going on vacation, playing in three card clubs, going to Wednesday morning coffee and many other social events. Life is truly what you make of it!

            I mentioned Stroke Camp a few times; this was started in 2004 by a member of our Stroke Support Group as a weekend get-a-way at a local Camp/Retreat Center. We had one camp the first year, then two the following year, and, after word got out about the Camp, four the next year with Stroke Survivors and Caregivers from seven States attending. After seeing how much impact the Camp had on Survivors, the Director decided to go Nationwide with the Camps. Pat and I are on the Board of Directors and volunteer to work at the Camps. This year there are eighteen Camps scheduled in various States. We will be volunteering in Colorado and Texas and maybe Springfield, IL. These camps are all funded by local Hospitals or Fundraisers and donations. I urge anyone who has a loved one or friend that has suffered a Stroke to tell them about Camp. You can find out more information about Camp at our website:

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Sunday, March 18, 2012


This essay was copied from the web site of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago with their permission and with the author's, Cari Biamonte, permission. Cari participated in a study done by the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on enhancing the quality of life of stroke survivors. 

This study was done to assess how writing in different ways about the experience of recovery can help physical and psychological health and activity after stroke.
By Cari Biamonte
© May, 2006

To look at me is to think I am the picture of good health. I am a 45-year-old Caucasian woman, five feet three inches tall, 103 pounds with an athletic build. I don’t drink, smoke, or do recreational drugs. I go to church regularly, work out at the gym, and floss my teeth before bedtime. I thought I was in control of my ever-challenging health issues. You see, I have a long history of health issues, none of which include heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, or obesity. Most people assume I am a runner. Indeed I am, or was, and will be again. I have no outward physical defects that say, “Look at me I’m a stroke victim,” but I am, or was, and NEVER want to be again.

Other diseases tested my character: childhood nephritis, ulcerative colitis, steroid induced osteoporosis, vertebral compression fractures, and chronic fatigue. Stroke was a word I was unprepared to hear. I have no family history of it, nor do I fit the profile for such a condition.

Apparently the onset of my stroke was blurred vision. Who knew? My eyesight went
from focused to double to unconscious to enlightened. I guess you could say, “I was
blind and now I see.” This is my story.

My eyes were closed and my body frozen in fear to the bed. I remember the doctor at the foot of my hospital bed talking into his voice recorder about my condition. He described me as one would an unremarkable specimen. I distinctly remember him saying that they wouldn’t know anything for three days. Three days? I opened my eyes and saw my mother. “GOD!” My insides screamed. “Not again. Holy Mother of God!” I thought. “My mother has seen me fall countless times before. Surely you must know the fear and pain she is feeling, for you too have watched your Son fall, suffer, and die. I just can’t put her through this anymore. I can’t stand to see her frightened. I want to live and take care of my parents, not have them continue to babysit me into adulthood.” That’s when it happened. That’s when things changed for me. There was this sudden awareness that all is well. And indeed it was. 

My recovery was complete. Short of a three-week headache, neck and shoulder pain, fear of being alone and uncontrollable emotions, I was on my way to a new and exciting life!

What I didn’t know was how this sudden “relationship” with God would change my life and existing relationships. Suddenly I was struck with a conviction of all I did that wasn’t so “good.” My religion just flew out the window and my relationship with God was a sharp reality. The fact is my relationship was lost behind the trappings of religion. I didn’t have a relationship with God. In order to have a relationship, you need to spend time with someone. If I only spent one hour a week with my spouse, we would have a less then happy marriage, and so it goes with our Creator. I had a lot of work to do and a lot of forgiveness to seek.

For what purpose had I received such grace? I was feeling a tremendous amount of gratitude and responsibility to fulfill God’s will in my life. My sole focus quickly became just that. After all, I was spared from any visible impairment or death—it’s the least I could do. I felt oddly encouraged about the future, yet misunderstood by my fiancĂ©. A faithless man, a scarred and bitter man, an alcoholic who was wounded by the Vietnam War. Visually unimpaired like me, yet damaged goods still the same. What a team we make. Oil and water.

It took a great deal of soul searching and much needed prayer before I felt at peace with my decision to marry this man and thus, began exploring the new me, as did my loved ones. I could see both wonder and confusion in the faces of those who have known me. In less than two years, I had lost my job that I held for 13 years, suffered a stroke, got married, and moved 140 miles from my home. Perhaps it was unfair of me to expect anyone to understand what it was I had been feeling. How do you explain a spiritual rebirth? A sudden wisdom into other’s circumstances, a deep familiar empathy with strangers, an unconditional love for those who’ve wronged you, and an “ooohhhhh I get it now” when reading the word of God. Finding that every waking moment is spent in constant prayer. Wanting nothing but solitude. Having nothing in common with the things of this earth any longer. Who can blame my husband for feeling left out and confused?

What my husband does have is a wonderful gift for providing for and protecting me. It was as if God placed him right there to physically catch me when I stroked. That’s when the Lord began his work in me. This new and different life of mine has given me the opportunity to seek the presence of God, discover who I am, and to focus on using my talents for the sake of others. Interesting stuff. Scary stuff too.

So I suffered a stroke. Others have suffered more, some less, each one differently. No one goes through this life unscathed. What matters most is not what we learn in the midst of our suffering, but that we persevere through the suffering learning to trust and believe in the greater good that is to be revealed. This is a very abstract concept for those with no faith, for faith itself is believing in what is not seen.

I come away from this experience with this advice. When faced with unbearable pain and burdens, get up in the morning, get dressed and get out of the house. If physically possible, walk to a coffee shop or restaurant where you could meet people, read and reflect. Spend time acknowledging your circumstances, accept what cannot be immediately changed, develop a strategy for recovery, and most importantly remain hopeful in things yet to come. Do not fear.

All material is the property of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago All rights reserved

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