At a recent stroke survivor support group put on by Stroke Support Association (SSA) via Zoom, facilitator Dr. Jane Claus asked the questions: Are you a better person since your stroke? In what way has your stroke helped you grow?
With the answers that came, a theme emerged: The life-altering upheaval of having had a stroke, the many difficult challenges of recovery, and the acceptance of a “new normal” bring patience, and with patience comes compassion for self and—by extension— for others.
Alvin, a professional musician and SSA Board Member, had his stroke 23 years ago. He said: “I think I’m more patient, and that I’m learning to be a better person because of that. If you’re not patient to begin with, a stroke will definitely make you more so.”
Tim, a devoted gardener and head of SSA’s Hospital Visitors Program, had his stroke on August 30, 2004. He commented: “I am the same person I was before the stroke. I feel that my stroke is a learning process, and I am still learning to work through it. That’s life. You have to roll with the punches.”
Karen, a semi-retired therapist who had her stroke on May 31, 2017, said: “I too am the same person. I have learned a lot from my stroke and from COVID—to have a greater appreciation for the life I have and the people I love. Years before my stroke, I became a therapist because I wanted to help people and I have a kind heart. Now having had a stroke, I have even more compassion for people who have experienced trauma or loss.”
Ray, who attends SSA’s support groups with his wife Helen, had his stroke 17 years ago. He commented: “Yes, I am a more sensitive person now. Before my stroke, I focused too much on work, and all the obligations that came with that. Now my priorities are my relationships, especially with my wife and family.”
Gary, a volunteer at the VA and at Stroke Support Association, had several strokes, the first of which was on December 15, 2000. He said: “I’m more patient since having had a stroke. I notice that I have very few instances where I lose my temper now. When I’m trying to get out the door [in my wheelchair] and bump into things, I have to be patient. You have to have a sense of humor.”
Suzie, an avid volunteer at the Long Beach Aquarium and with SSA’s Hospital Visitor Program, had her stroke 16 years ago. She agreed with the others: “Patience, yes. I am a lot more patient than I was before. Patient and present.”
Mary, who attends classes and is an SSA Board Member and SSA Hospital Visitor, had her stroke on June 26, 2013: “I agree. I am more patient. I don’t know if having more patience is the result of my stroke or because I’m older. Maybe both. I’ve had to accept that I’m not exactly the same, and doing things may take longer. I’ve had to accept and learn to appreciate what I’ve gone through, and what other people have gone through.”
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