Research provides hope for families living with stroke, former hospital chaplain says
“I’m here because of her,” says Bruce White, nodding towards his wife. “Everything is because of Alice.”
His wife, Alice, shakes her head but it’s apparent that she has been his biggest advocate since a 2007 stroke left Bruce, a former hospital chaplain, with communication loss (aphasia) and cognitive problems.
After the stroke, the couple sold their home in a small southern Ontario community and relocated to Toronto. Alice got a full-time job and they moved closer to services like programming at the Aphasia Institute.
“Right after my stroke, I couldn’t communicate at all,” says Bruce. Even seven years later, “I still can’t get my words out too well, I have trouble with directions and I can’t judge time.”
Bruce is part of an imaging and rehabilitation study with the Heart and Stroke Foundation Canadian Partnership for Stroke Recovery, providing new insight into how the brain remaps and reorganizes after stroke. The study, led by Dr. Jed Meltzer at Baycrest Health Sciences, is looking at ways to reactivate communication centres in the brain.
Bruce learned about the study through a presentation by Dr. Meltzer at the Aphasia Institute and he was keen to take part.
When you or a family member has a stroke, “you feel like a lot of things have been taken away,” Alice says. Those things include community involvement, a rewarding career and volunteer efforts. She describes how families need more support and more services. “There is no easy answer to any of it.” But, they want to see ongoing research.
For Bruce, participation in the CPSR aphasia study is “something that’s positive. That, in itself, is encouraging and life-building,” he says.
Bruce remembers when his mother had a stroke many years before. She received no therapy and was never able to communicate again. Thankfully, research knowledge has demonstrated the benefit of ongoing rehabilitation and Bruce’s outcome is so much better.
“The brain is complicated and it’s quite interesting how they are finding new therapies to improve recovery from stroke,” Bruce says. “For me, it has been good to be part of it.”
His hope is that research will continue to improve outcomes for people recovering from stroke, helping them regain their lives and easing the burden for the people they love. People like Alice.