Speak up for stroke patients
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