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Finding resources, friendship, and support after stroke | Health

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Finding resources, friendship, and support after stroke
Health

When KP members Arturo Aleman and Hortencia Morales saw an email circulating among friends that described the symptoms of a stroke, the couple had no idea they would need that information just one week later. Morales' stroke struck in the middle of the night. She wasn’t sure what was happening.

“I thought I was talking to [Arturo]. I didn't feel any pain. I kept saying I was fine,” she said. But her husband quickly went through the stroke signs and realized his wife needed to get help. “She was in pretty bad shape. She couldn't talk, couldn’t swallow, had aphasia, couldn't move her tongue in a controlled way, she couldn't hold her arm up,” recalled Aleman.

His wife was rushed to one area hospital, then transferred to Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center, a Primary Stroke Center, and quickly treated for a stroke. Morales is among the estimated 795,000 people who experience a new or recurrent stroke every year. In fact, according to the American Heart Association, someone in the U.S. has a stroke about once every 40 seconds.

“I was shocked. I was always exercising. I said I can't have a stroke,” she said.

For Morales, that was five years ago and she has since returned to many of her regular activities, thanks to intensive recovery and physical therapy. One other important piece of her recovery has been the monthly community stroke group that she and Aleman joined, a support group that has been meeting at Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center for the past 10 years. She and Aleman have been attending the group meeting ever since the stroke and both said it has been wonderful for not only survivors but their caregivers, too. “This group is the most fantastic thing. We found people who are in the same boat. Many of them have gone through this longer than we have. So when we came, they shared with us, showed us how to get to the next level, and we made friends too,” said Aleman.

Said Kaiser Permanente physical therapist Bob Delgado, one of the group’s facilitators, “We want to provide a comfortable and supportive atmosphere to discuss issues related to having a stroke, where they can learn from experts and other stroke survivors. The group often motivates and inspires the person to continue to live for today and enjoy the little things in life, which often helps the person move forward in the recovery process.” Most months there are anywhere from 20 to 25 people in the group, including survivors and caregivers. Delgado said the meetings typically have guest speakers, including health educators, neurologists, nurses, psychologists, and nutritionists. They try to feature speakers to discuss issues related to strokes and understand ways of reducing the risk of having another one. Other topics have included stress management, depression, cooking with one hand, as well as activities for stroke survivors in the community. “Some people attend a few times, others have been here for 10 years,” said Delgado. “The person can decide how much they want to interact but they are not required to share. Some people like to listen, while others are very social and enjoy sharing.”

Steve Capps also takes part in the support group. A stroke in 2009 -he was just 55 years old - left his left side paralyzed. “The biggest thing was seeing other people who had strokes and they were getting better. I felt like my life was over. But I saw people who had strokes 20 years ago and they were still here. It filled me with hope and kept me going,” said Capps. He takes part so that he can support others. “I come here now in case there are new people. I want them to encourage people, and tell them life goes on, and you will get better,” said Capps, who had intensive physical therapy at the Kaiser Foundation Rehabilitation Center in Vallejo and has cultivated a number of hobbies including carving wooden boats. He has also taken up bird watching.

The stroke support group is free and open to the community. It meets on the third Wednesday of the month at Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center. Email robert.delgado@kp.org for more information.

 
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