Nothing could have been more of a surprise to Valerie than her husband Jim’s stroke. “This was a guy who was never sick a day in his life,” she says. “He’d never taken any medication. I don’t remember the last time he had a headache.”
Jim McLaughlin, a fit and youthful 65-year-old professional engineer from the Muskoka region of Ontario, was working in his home office late one night when he began to feel weak and he fell down. “I think I may have had a stroke,” he said to his wife after getting up and making his way to the bedroom. At first, they looked at each other in disbelief. Valerie quickly called 9-1-1 as his speech began to slur.
Today, Jim is part of a CPSR study at Toronto Rehabilitation Institute into balance and mobility after stroke. “This is incredible,” says Valerie, who attended the therapy sessions with Sarah, one of their daughters. “We are so fortunate to be here.”
At Toronto Rehab, Jim is strapped into a special safety harness that secures his body while CPSR researcher and therapist Cynthia Danells puts him through a series of strengthening exercises. Part of the training involves giving him a push and showing him how to recover his balance. Falls are very common after stroke and can lead to serious complications.
Participating in the research helps Jim to use his weak leg, to steady his balance and to avoid injury. “This balance study has been invaluable,” Valerie says. “It should be part of everybody’s recovery.”
Adds Jim: “I feel more confident. It’s great to have a venue where you can try to recover from a fall and know you’re not going to land on your keister.”