Sunday, November 25, 2012

Survivor Story - Mike Wett's Story

Before you get started on Mike Wett's survivor story I have late breaking news that is a shameless plug for our new Camp web store designed and developed by our very own Lauren Kramer, Camp Coordinator and programmer extraordinaire. The following notice is from the Retreat and Refresh Stroke Camp Facebook site:
Attention survivors, caregivers, volunteers, and friends: The Stroke Camp Shop is officially up and running! Go to to purchase hoodies, t-shirts, and long sleeve t's. Hats are backordered, but will be available soon. From now until Christmas, get free shipping on orders of $75 or more. Happy shopping!!
Ok, now on with this interview that Chuck Hofvander conducted before his bicycle accident. While you're reading that I'm going over to the Camp Store to do some shopping.

by Chuck Hofvander

Early on the morning of 9/22/2008 Mike had just finished walking his dog when he became dizzy and disoriented. He sat down to regain his senses, he never got up.  Mike had suffered a stroke at 48 years old.

Mike's wife to find his truck still parked in the driveway. She immediately ran outside and found him collapsed in the front yard.  She screamed for their daughter to call 911.  They did not want to lose Mike, his brother had passed away of heart disease early in life. Mike had exercised regularly, ate a nutrional diet and had a good job. He suffered from high blood pressure but nothing else.

Mike woke up at Alexian Brothers rehab hospital. Doctors told him he had a brain stem stroke; less than one percent of those suffering this type stroke survive or they become severely disabled. 

When Mike awoke he could not feed himself, speak, feel his entire right side, he lost hearing in one ear and had double vision.  Mike spent eight weeks as an in-patient.  When he was released he attended out-patient rehab for eight hours for six months and weekends brought additional homework.  Mike says he lived at rehab, it was his job to get better.

He continues to have numbness on his right side, slight aphasia, coordination and balance issues, hearing loss, and memory problems but Mike had beaten the stroke. He beat the odds.

Mike progress continues to this day, though not as dramatic. Mike says “Believe you can achieve your goal, be persistent.  Good Luck!”

Thursday, November 22, 2012

11/21/12 Update on Chuck Hofvander

by Chuck Jones

Good news about Chuck Hofvander. I wanted to publish this right away so I appoligize for pre-empting the Trivia Night posting. You can still see it by clicking on the link at the right of your screen or scrolling down past this posting.

Something to be thankful for today - I believe this comes from Brad, his son. Here is the latest email I recieved about Chuck's plight. Sounds like he's progressing:

"Thank you for all of your support as we move forward.

We’re slowly returning the house to its pre-accident condition: rugs and furniture are going back to their normal spots, pictures are being re-hung.

Chuck has lost weight as his taste buds have changed once again. Even Mom making his favorite meals are now unappealing. Thankfully he has never been shy about eating anything so he still eats. His hearing was tested by the Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor and some of his hearing has returned. We noticed it around the house and he noticed it as well but we have confirmation. He can hear talking on the radio but music is still difficult for him. His speech has improved dramatically, coming close to where he was pre-accident.

“Impulsivity” is still his middle name. The therapist took Chuck outside for a short walk while Mom followed with the wheelchair. He had difficulty transitioning from sun to shade but overall did very well. Of course, he headed in one direction (according to him, the correct one) while the therapist had other ideas. He is quite the handful.

At the onset we were told he would receive home care therapy for five weeks. It has barely been three and they feel with his quick advances and progress, he is ready for outpatient therapy. Therefore, after Thanksgiving, he will return to Northwest Community three times per week for further therapy.

Happy Thanksgiving!"

Sunday, November 18, 2012

What Happened at Trivia Night Last Saturday

by Chuck Jones

Last Saturday night (11/10/12), we had our annual November Trivia Night that we offer as a fundraiser for the local Peoria, IL area camps that are sponsored by the Friends of Retreat and Refresh Stroke Camp.  We have been doing this a couple times a year for the past 5 years. We had almost 200 people participate this night and we are eternally grateful for their support. We provide food, beverages, snacks, fun and a chance to win many prizes. This year we had 24 tables seating eight people per table. 

This is one of the raffle basket tables we made and raffled off during the night. Our board of directors make many raffle baskets through donations from local businesses or their own pocketbooks and we raffle them off through ticket sales. All proceeds go towards next years camps.

The most popular prize was Amazon's Kindle Fire electronic tablet donated by one of the board members. It drew a record breaking 388 raffle tickets.

Two other major items raffled were a Kamado Joe ceramic grill donated by Jerime Gendron with Gendron's Landscaping, and a 5.5 cubic foot Danby brand freezer that Shermans gave us a good discount on. The Kamado Joe ceramic grill is similar to the Green Egg ceramic grill, if you are familiar with that. A $200 meat bundle was included with the freezer that consisted of  a certificate for a pork package, donated by Echo Valley Meats, and  an additional $100 gift card to Echo Valley Meats, donated by Jerime Gendron. A very special thanks to Jerime for his generosity!!!!!!

Our Master of ceremonies is Loy Sloan who has been doing Trivia Night events for us as well as for other organizations in the Peoria area. This is a picture of Loy next to Marylee Nunley, the Executive Director of the camp, giving the opening announcements and rules of the game.

It is a good time for meeting new and old friends and for just catching up on each other lives between contest rounds.

"You should hold you hand like this as you speak Italian", explains Jan Jahnel.

This happy couple, Mary Kay and Tom Pilat, is poised and ready for the first round. 
"Bring it on Loy!"
They're smiling now but let's see if they are after the next eight grueling rounds.

"Now let me see", ponders answer sheet checker Darlene Sloan as she checks over table 24's final answers. "Is the answer Abraham Lincoln? No, it's Wile E Coyote!"  

"Ok, enough of the jokes", says Debbie Morse, Jennifer's mother. "Just tell me, did I win the Kindle or not?"

Stacy Helle and Jennifer Ulm are ready to provide support and counseling in case she doesn't. Get ready girls.

"Now, don't get me started, Debbie", exclaims Darlene.  "I think I'll win the Kindle."

"Hah! You're both wrong", triumphs Kelly Imhoff. "I won it, and here it is!"

That's her husband Sanford in the background thinking, "Hot Dog! Now I can watch internet football feeds at the dinner table!"

Friends at my table are, from left to right: Debbie Morse, Jennifer's mother;  Jennifer Ulm, Marylee's daughter-in-law, a board member and a frequent camp volunteer;  Marylee Nunley and John Nunley, co-founders of the Retreat and Refresh Stroke Camp. Without John's and Marylee's love and energy this camp would not exist.

Also at the table with me but not pictured were Rodney Herrick, Marylee's brother;  Mary (Granny) Herrick, Marylee's mother, and Stacy Helle, a friend of Jennifer's. 

Two other camp staff personnel not pictured, who were there and we can't do without, but with equal love and energy are Larry Schaer, Associate Director and board member, and Lauren Kramer, Coordinator of Support Services, also a board member. They were in charge of registering the contestants.

And seven other volunteers who make this Trivia Night a success are Darlene Sloan, Sarah Christy, a board member, and her husband Boyd Christy both who are very active in camp events and are co-founders also; Georgia Morris and her daughter, Cheri, both of whom are board members and very active in camp activities. Also a very special thanks to Jennifer Lindgren and her friend Mark who were ticket sellers, along with Georgia and Cheri. Jennifer and Mark have been selling tickets at our Trivia Nights since its inception. Thanks you two! Your help means a lot to us. No tickets no prizes, right? You helped make, maybe, 30 people very happy.

Thank you, all who attended this event, this year and past years. Your enthusiasm and support is what keeps us going from year to year and gives hope and fun to hundreds of stroke survivors throughout our nation. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Survivor Story - Testimony from Teri and Larry Bobko


Testimony from Teri and Larry Bobko 
interview by Chuck Hofvander

Do you remember an old TV commercial about Master Card, the credit card company?  I think about that when I try to share with people how the Stroke Camp weekend was for Larry and me.  The miles traveling to our camp location, 80 miles, the time away from family, 3-days, the memories and friendships made -- priceless!

Larry and I have attended a stroke support group near our home for more than five years.  It is a place where we have met many wonderful people whose lives, like ours, turned in a life changing way because of stroke injury. We share stories and concerns and have developed close friendships with many great people we would never have met had it not been for his health situation.

At one of our meetings, we were told about a Stroke Camp Weekend and some activities that might take place.  I was instantly excited by the opportunity to be away from home for a few days to “refresh” ourselves while being in the company of professionals who would help us engage and enjoy some things we no longer participated in.

Larry was more hesitant from the start but he said, “It’s only two days” and went along for my sake, knowing how much I could use the break from our everyday routine.

We were greeted by many welcome smiles, genuine help and fun things to do from the very start.  Our rooms were ready and lovely.  The meals were gourmet and we were treated like royalty for the entire weekend.

There were many opportunities for survivors to be alone to share their stories and learn from each other.  Likewise, caregivers were given set times to be with others who act as cheerleaders and coaches for their loved ones.  We were blessed to have so many wonderful professionals and volunteers to help us feel pampered and empowered all at the same time.

Some activities included: fresh air walks or golf cart rides on the scenic grounds, music therapy which included hands-on time to play lots of musical instruments, crafts including trying your hand and creativity with wooden materials, tile embellishments and even ‘soup in a jar’ to make as a gift – measuring ingredients into a clear jar by following simple directions.

We left that wonderful weekend not only renewed and refreshed; we left there with a new sense of hope and joy in our marriage.  It was wonderful to see my husband be silly and spontaneous again.  It was great to relax, have fun again and to share concerns and help each other find some new answers to our common challenges.

Time spent at Stroke Camp Weekend, priceless indeed!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

11/08/12 Update on Chuck Hofvander

I just got this off the Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp Facebook site: 
Update on Chuck Hofvander. He is home now, getting outpatient rehab. This was a major setback for him with the injuries from the bicycle accident and subsequent stroke. Prayers for Chuck and his dedicated wife Liz are in order. My understanding is that he is progessing as expected, but has a long difficult road ahead.
If you missed the past posts about Chuck's plight, scroll down or click on the links under October and November at the right side of your screen.
-Chuck J

Monday, November 5, 2012

11/05 Update on Chuck Hofvander

Hi all,

Has anyone read the book, “Why Bad Things Happen to Good People?” because we all sure would like to know the answer to that question.

Chuck came home last week so needless to say, things have been quite hectic around the house. His early and unexpected discharge has been hard on Mom. She feels like its 2004 all over again, starting from scratch, with many of his gains lost. Dad’s case manager at Northwest Community tried to convince him (even after the discharge papers were signed) to reconsider and get inpatient therapy at one of the local facilities. For him, it was been there, done that so there was just no way he was going to go back.

Everything is magnified and especially difficult because his hearing is so impaired now. We need to say his name to get his attention and speak directly to him, not from the side or behind. The ear, nose, and throat doctor recommended oral steroids but without any guarantee they will solve the problem. Dad has enough emotional issues now without adding more so Mom has opted to wait 2 weeks to visit the ENT again. His medications are taken one at a time in a spoon with applesauce. We hope to wean him off this shortly.

Chuck is at a high risk for falls. We have to watch him constantly because he wants to get up yet he still needs some help transferring from bed to wheelchair, etc. In fact, on Friday Mom left him sitting on a chair and quickly went upstairs to grab something and in that time, he stood up and was walking around the kitchen unsupervised.

A nurse will be coming weekly to monitor his vitals, change his wound dressings (road rash on his leg), and check on his pain levels. He is taking Norco for pain at night but even then, he wakes up several times per night in pain. He will receive physical therapy three times per week to help him regain his strength. We setup the living room as his HQ. His goal is to be able to walk upstairs to bed and be able to sit in his favorite chair (aka his throne). Mom hopes to arrange for speech therapy even though she saved all of the worksheets from the March 2004 stroke. He gets so frustrated when he says the wrong word or can’t find the right one. She of course is the unlikely recipient of the brunt of his agony. Isn’t it true we take all our anxiety and pain on those closest to us?

Thank you again for all of the support and understanding as Dad requires 100% of our attention during more than 90% of the time at home and it is difficult to respond to emails and answer every phone call.

Please feel free to share this with all those we may have missed.