Last week I was invited to attend a stroke survivors meeting at Acacia Ridge. David Firth, convenor for the Stroke Association conducts weekly meetings offering support, guidance and encouragement to the large attendance of stroke survivors from the surrounding Brisbane suburbs. I found the experience to be a powerful insight into the daily struggles of survival which are endured when adjusting to life after having suffered a stroke. It was wonderful to witness the camaraderie amongst the members and observe the longer term stroke survivors rendering encouragement to the more recently affected stroke survivors who were reliant on such guidance to assist them with easing their burden in order to be able to visualise some light at the end of the tunnel.
David’s sessions are both informative and educative by providing illustrated descriptions of the pathophysiology of stroke as well as the debilitative effects that stroke can have on the lives of stroke survivors and their families. The group prefer to consider themselves as survivors not victims in striving to find alternate ways of adjusting by retraining other parts of their brain which compensate. Such compensatory measures through newly acquired ways of functioning are indicative of their whole hearted motivation and commitment in an attempt to regain some level of independence that had previously been so familiar to them.
David spoke about a particular device called “I Care” which one survivor of the group is currently trialling at the Synapse Centre to assist him with increasing his mobility. The device braces the stroke survivor in a suspended harness to assist with restoring the walking movement back into the legs whereby the harness is slowly adjusted to increase levels of weight-bearing as the survivor progresses in attaining increased levels of mobility. David also mentioned the University of Queensland free trial for assisting brain stimulation in recent hemiplegic survivors to ameliorate their arm movement.
I was extremely grateful to David and the other stroke survivors for the enlightening experience in allowing me to attend the meeting. The experience greatly impacted me with the take home message of “Never give up trying” that was so strongly emphasised throughout the meeting along with its reinforcing optimism that you will eventually achieve what you want, it is just going to take considerable time, persistence and perseverance to reacquire those once taken for granted skills.