Mark Miller knows how to cut vegetables one-handed and understands the struggle of dealing with an impaired brain post-stroke. But it took a while to get there, and he wants to speed the healing curve for others.
Eight years ago, while volunteering in Tanzania, Miller suffered a stroke at the age of 46. He lost the use of his left side and had to fight the haziness in his brain for several years.
As a volunteer facilitator for the Live Well After Stroke program, he shares those experiences with others, helping stroke survivors understand there is a future, and their caregivers understand the struggles.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation program is all about connecting with resources, sharing stories and ensuring a healthy lifestyle after a stroke, Miller says.
“The nice thing about this course is that as a stroke survivor I can give them real life examples,” he says. “As someone who has survived a stroke is I can point out resources that took me five or six years to find.”
He presents the free, interactive peer support experience alongside a co-facilitator, a physiotherapist that offers yet another perspective, at Monterey Recreation Centre starting Feb. 25. It includes seven two-hour sessions once a week bring together small groups of stroke survivors and support people in a bid to prevent another stroke and explore components of health through meaningful activities and conversations.
It’s a program Miller wishes existed when he got out of hospital and began the trip back to where he is today, an active, balanced post-stroke life, despite left-side paralysis. Kayaking and canoeing remain a part of his life, though it took some time to get there.
“Mainly I think it’s a forum where people can just share,” he said. “It’s learning how to get through it from people that have got through it. You hit points … of is this worth it? I found through engineering things in a different way I live a really active life.”
For example, one fellow who attended was a former logger who just started to cry and explain how he went into the grocery store and had to leave almost immediately. Quickly his cohorts in the session listed the problems, too bright, too much stuff, too many people. The group helped him realize others not only shared similar issues after a stroke, some defeated them.
Those kinds of ephiphanies can help people become socially engaged again. It’s not uncommon for a first-time participant to share that the only person they see in a week is their homecare support.
“It’s too easy to sit and eat and watch TV all day,” Miller says. “It’s about sharing resources and ensuring you’re living the healthiest life going forward to avoid a second stroke.”
The free program for stroke survivors and their caregivers starts Feb. 25 at Monterey Recreation Centre. Registration required at 1-888-473-4636 ext 8002 as space is limited.
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