Speak up for stroke pa­tients

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page -

The Ed­i­tor, I am a stroke sur­vivor. I’m writ­ing be­cause there is a pro­posal that will be put to vote later this year by the Board of the Cham­plain Lo­cal Health In­te­gra­tion Net­work (LHIN) to re­lo­cate stroke re­ha­bil­i­ta­tive ser­vices in the East­ern Coun­ties from Hôpi­tal Glen­garry Me­mo­rial Hospi­tal (HGMH) in Alexan­dria, to Corn­wall Com­mu­nity Hospi­tal.

At first glance, and from a pop­u­la­tion den­sity per­spec­tive, this may ring in as be­ing a log­i­cal move, but I’m writ­ing to­day to tell you why it would be any­thing but.

For my­self and many other stroke sur­vivors that I have spo­ken to, the bat­tle for re­cov­ery is not just not re­gain­ing the vis­i­ble loss you can eas­ily no­tice, such as paral­y­sis, speech, sight and mem­ory loss but it goes much deeper. We all strug­gle to re­con­nect to who we were as a per­son and try to make sense of the en­vi­ron­ment around us. HGMH is well suited to help us take on this chal­lenge.

At HGMH, I was a per­son and not a di­ag­no­sis. From day one I was not treated as a stroke pa­tient but as a per­son who had a stroke. All the staff get to know you and your fam­ily by name, from main­te­nance, house­keep­ing, food ser­vice and, of course, med­i­cal staff. The ma­jor fo­cus is stroke re­hab and you do not feel lost among many other pa­tients as I did when in a larger in­sti­tu­tion.

Not once in the over two months as a pa­tient did any hospi­tal staff go by me with­out us­ing my name and say hello. It may sound like a lit­tle thing but ev­ery time some­one made that ef­fort to ac­knowl­edge you as a per­son it goes a long way to help­ing you re­dis­cover your­self. In a larger hospi­tal with the ro­ta­tion in staff I was only re­ferred to as the pa­tient in bed what­ever and was asked what I was in for.

At HGMH it’s hard to get lost! When I was in a larger multi-floored hospi­tal, I had trou­ble ori­ent­ing my­self and was al­ways con­fused where I was in re­la­tion­ship to my room, etc. HGMH has one level, com­pact, but yet plenty of space for pa­tients: an ideal en­vi­ron­ment for re­cov­er­ing from stroke when ev­ery dis­trac­tion can be over­whelm­ing.

At HGMH, the food is made on-site, and you even have a menu to choose from. Just se­lect­ing what you would pre­fer to have is ther­apy in it­self. They cater to pa­tients and will bring you a re­place­ment meal if need be.

HGMH runs on pa­tient time. If you are not ready for re­hab they come back to later. It is not al­ways easy to men­tally get ready for the chal­lenges of stroke re­hab ses­sion at a mo­ments no­tice and here you are told well in ad­vance when a ses­sion is com­ing up. Also, I didn’t feel like I had to com­pete for time with my ther­a­pists, com­pared to a larger cen­tre where ther­a­pists have mul­ti­ple com­pet­ing de­part­ments and pri­or­i­ties. I felt like the team was per­son­ally ded­i­cated to en­sur­ing my fullest po­ten­tial would be achieved. At one point, my ther­a­pists be­lieved in me more than I did. Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion is a jour­ney of in­ner and outer growth that can’t be achieved in a hus­tle and bus­tle en­vi­ron­ment of com­pet­ing pri­or­i­ties. It’s a slow and ded­i­cated jour­ney of sweat, trust and re­birth that is best suited to a smaller ded­i­cated fa­cil­ity.

I could go on for­ever. I am writ­ing this be­cause I am wor­ried and very up­set that some peo­ple in their wis­dom (no­tably in the ab­sence of in­put from stroke sur­vivors) are con­tem­plat­ing mov­ing this mar­vel­lous stroke re­hab pro­gram to a larger fa­cil­ity. All these and more ben­e­fits that only a stroke sur­vivor un­der­stands will be lost. We could move the ex­tremely tal­ented doc­tors, ther­a­pists, nurses and other nec­es­sary staff to a big­ger multi-dis­ci­pline hospi­tal, but it would be closer to im­pos­si­ble to move the at­mos­phere, and other in­tan­gi­bles of this uniquely ther­a­peu­tic en­vi­ron­ment.

It’s time stroke sur­vivors have a voice in di­rect­ing where stroke re­hab care should oc­cur. I would like to call on stoke sur­vivors and their care­givers to ad­vo­cate to main­tain the in­pa­tient stroke re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­gram at HGMH by ask­ing you to write to the LHIN Board Chair (JeanPierre Bois­clair, 1900 City Park Dr., Suite 204, Ot­tawa, K1J 1A3) and lobby your MPP can­di­dates by chal­leng­ing them to stand with those of us who know from ex­pe­ri­ence that HGMH of­fers a healing en­vi­ron­ment that can­not be matched at a larger fa­cil­ity.

Steve Archer, Sum­mer­stown

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