“When we share our stories, we share ourselves, we share our encouragement, and we create miracles.” –Kate Adamson, speaker on October 23, 2018 at Stroke Support Association in Long Beach
On Tuesday, October 23, 2018, Kate Adamson, MSW, a stroke survivor, author, speaker, and advocate for the disabled, gave a presentation titled “Beyond Your Support Group: Finding Help and Resources” to the stroke survivors and caregivers of Stroke Support Association (SSA) in Long Beach. SSA is a non-profit with a focused mission: Empowering stroke survivors and their families with resources to recover, reclaim, and rebuild their lives. SSA offers separate weekly support groups for stroke survivors and caregivers. SSA invited Kate, who works for Disabled Resources Center (DRC) in Long Beach, to tell her personal story of stroke and to highlight the services that DRC provides.
Kate had a massive brain stem stroke in 1995 at the age of 33. One day, she was a busy, active mother of two toddlers, and the next morning she was hanging on to life. She suffered “locked-in syndrome,” a condition that left her entirely locked within her body. She could not move, speak, or even breathe on her own. Other than the blinking of her eyes, she could not communicate at all. Inside that motionless body, Kate panicked about all the things she couldn’t do.
She realized fairly quickly that she would have to completely change her attitude if she were to survive and resume a semblance of a life. She decided she had to start focusing on all the things she could do, rather than all the things she couldn’t do. “I wanted to breathe on my own,” she said. “I wanted to be a mom to my two girls again.”
Kate spent 70 days in the Intensive Care Unit on life support. She had a trachea and a feeding tube. Then she was sent to acute rehab, where she spent the next 3 ½ months. When she was transferred there, she could only barely move one finger, but that tiniest of movements was a triumph on which to focus.
Once home, as she continued to work hard on her recovery, Kate started focusing on her appearance. She wanted to be rid of the brace on her leg. “Walking was such a blessing, but the brace was heavy, and cumbersome on my bare skin,” she reported. “It also squeaked with every step, so I couldn’t sneak up on my kids and catch them in their mischief.” Kate wanted the brace cut down; she wanted to be and to look “normal.” After experimenting with a shorn-down brace, she realized she couldn’t walk without her knee snapping back. She had to return to the original version.
She once decided, too, that she wanted to wear beautiful high-heeled shoes again. She went to Nordstrom, which would allow her to buy two different-sized shoes for the price of a single pair. She picked out a sleek, strappy, high-heeled beauty. After putting the smaller shoe on one foot, she stretched the larger shoe over her brace on the other foot. She looked down at her feet and was thrilled at what she saw. But she realized that if she wanted to wear those shoes, she’d have to enjoy them from a wheelchair. She chose walking, of course, which necessitated purely practical shoes. Acceptance on so many levels was part of Kate’s journey from near-death to a joyful, purposeful life. “If I’m not wearing New Balance, I don’t have any balance,” she quipped.
In her book, Paralyzed but not Powerless, Kate tells the story of her journey back from complete paralysis to becoming again an active mother and wife who went back to school for a BA and a Master’s degree of Social Work from California State University of Long Beach. She has testified before Congress for increased funding on stroke and heart research. Having served as a national spokesperson for the American Stroke Association, she now works as a Job Developer and Outreach Coordinator at Disabled Resources Center in Long Beach. “What keeps me alive,” Kate said, “is helping other people.”
In her presentation to SSA, Kate said, “DRC is another resource for you to put in your toolbox.”
Established in 1976, Disabled Resources Center, Inc., (DRC) is a private, non-profit corporation serving people with all disabilities. Their mission is “to empower people with disabilities to live independently in the community, to make their own decisions about their lives, and to advocate on their own behalf.”
DRC offers 19 programs that give guidance and assistance in independent living skills, employment searches, housing services and information, computer skills and help with assistive technology such as smartphones and tablets, peer support services, help with Medicare, among others. They are all free, except for the computer class, which costs only $15 for a six-week session. DRC also offers a 30-day loan program of canes, reading glasses, ECHO, and other devices to help make independent living a viable option.
Disabled Resources Center and Stroke Support Association currently enjoy a wonderful, collaborative relationship: stroke survivors who come to DRC are referred to the support groups of SSA, and SSA now refers its members to DRC for resources beyond their support groups. As Kate so well expressed, “I’m excited to collaborate with you. I’m such a believer for getting support. We get to share our experience. We don’t have to do this alone.” This itself is why SSA offers support groups not just to stroke survivors, but to the caregivers and family members of stroke survivors; caregivers have a lot of emotional adjustments to make in their new role, and must learn to take care themselves, so that they can live happily taking care of their loved ones.
To find out more about DRC, call 562-427-1000, visit www.drcinc.org, email email@example.com or attend an orientation on Thursday mornings at 9 AM at DRC, 2750 E. Spring Street, Suite 100, Long Beach, CA 90806.
For more information on Stroke Support Association, call 310-537-0556, email firstname.lastname@example.org, explore our website, or attend a support group any Tuesday morning except in the months of April, August and December, from 10:00-11:30 at 3759 Orange Ave., Long Beach, CA 90807.
Categorized in: Stories