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Leslie Chipre

CPSR research helps young mom regain independence

“It was January 31st, 2012, at 5:30 in the morning,” recalls Leslie Chipre, the mother of two young children.

“My kids were asleep. I got up early to get ready for work and to shovel the snow when I began to feel dizzy. I lost my speech. I knew something was terribly wrong.”

But the furthest thing from her mind was a stroke. Leslie was 31 years old with no known risk factors. (Like half of young people who experience a stroke, the event was unpredictable and the cause was unknown.)

After a phone call to her sister for help, an ambulance was dispatched and Leslie’s life changed in ways she couldn’t imagine.

Initially, the stroke completely paralyzed her left side. During the next two years, Leslie would graduate from a wheelchair to a walker to a cane to get around.

Today, Leslie continues to make progress, thanks to research by the Heart and Stroke Foundation Canadian Partnership for Stroke Recovery (CPSR).

To combat spasticity (rigid muscles in her shoulder, arm, hand and leg), Leslie is participating in a study with CPSR-Investigator Dr. George Mochizuki and physiotherapist Cynthia Danells. It involves the use of BOTOX tm injections to relax muscles and a targeted physical therapy program to restore limb function.

“When I started the therapy my hand was in a tight fist. They would literally have to pry my fingers open to get any sort of stretch. Now, I can use my hand and arm more,” Leslie says. “And I don’t need my cane around the house.”

Improved use of her arm and leg also means she can do things in the kitchen like carrying groceries, cutting up food and washing the dishes.

For her, every incremental improvement is, in its own way, life-changing: playing Lego with her nine-year-old son; driving a car; and, striking the keyboard on the computer.

Leslie believes CPSR research will find new and better ways to restore lives after stroke because she is convinced recovery continues for years and “you have to keep going. I am still progressing.”

Participation in the CPSR research study “helped me regain my independence…I feel more normal. It’s obviously gradual but I am still getting stronger.”

Finding ways to help people like Leslie is what the CPSR research is all about.