Citizens With Disabilities - Ontario


Stroke Survivors Strive To Re-enter Their Community

Listening to Islanders with Disabilities - Then we go to work

Integrated programs key to allow stroke survivors to meet their potential for quality of life, says expert

By Jim Day The Guardian November 27, 2007

Gary Gray's community wasn't ready for his health set-back.

When Gray, 58, of Montague came home after having a stroke on Aug. 10, 2002, he found the return to be a rude awakening.

The stroke disabled him both physically and mentally. Today, his entire left side is paralyzed, though he is able to walk, usually with the aid of a cane. He also has memory lapses, which he likens to "having holes in the brain."

But he is able to function and get around. He still drives a car.

And he wants to do as much as his body and mind will allow.

Yet when he tried to reenter his community, where he had worked as a financial manager, he hit a wall. There were no programs available for stroke survivors. He dearly wanted to swim, but encountered no support when seeking an appropriate program.

"I couldn't seem to access it for whatever reason," he said.

"Unfortunately, stroke survivors, when they go back into the community, they become invisible." Dr. Nancy May is working diligently to improve the environment for people like Gray.

Stroke snapshot.

  • Stroke is a sudden loss of brain function, caused interruption of flow of blood to the brain or the rupture of blood vessels in the brain.
  • The effects of a stroke depend on where the brain injured, as well as how much damage occurred.
  • A stroke can impact any number of areas including one's ability to move, see, remember, speak, reason and write.
  • Source: Heart and Stroke Foundation

As a founding member of the Canadian Stroke Network, she has had a longtime preoccupation with generating evidence about how to improve outcomes for people with stroke and translating this knowledge to inform community-based programs for them.

Mayo, who was in Charlottetown recently to speak on her work, has focused her research mainly on stroke and elderly and has included activities such surveillance, health services, optimization, and clinical trials of rehabilitation interventions.

Mayo, a James McGill professor in the Department of Medicine and the School of Physical and 0occupational Therapy at McGill University, said the main issue with stroke today with is the health care component is getting shorter and shorter.

People commonly stay in hospital for just a handful of days. Many go straight home, bypassing any rehabilitation. And if they do go to rehab, it's usually for a much shorter period of time than in the past.

"That time that the health care system is involved with people with stroke is really counted in days or weeks," she said.

"Yet the stroke is for the rest of your life. The transition is very abrupt and there are no community resources really that are out there to provide a method or an opportunity so people with stroke can sort of get on with the rest of their life after they've had a stroke."

She estimates about 50,000 strokes in Canada - and roughly 300 in P.E.I. - occur every year. Of those 50,000 stroke victims, two-thirds return to their home and to their community.

Research shows that 50 per cent of people with stroke living in the community say they don't have enough meaningful activity to fill their day.

"And we know from this human existence that if you do nothing, you will deteriorate," she said.

"Eventually, that will hasten death."

Mayo said integrated programs, drawing partnerships between community, academics, government and industry, are key to allow stroke survivors to meet their potential for quality of life.

She is currently seeking $1 million from the Canadian Stroke Network to fund a study in nine sites across Canada.

Reproduced from

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