When I was discharged from the hospital after my stroke, I received support from the Stroke Association when I joined the conversation and communication group. The group support encouraged me to practice speaking and communicating, without fear of judgement, because all of the group had similar challenges. Slowly I felt at ease and started encouraging others to try to communicate.
My speech therapist, once the mechanics of sound production were relearned, was a firm believer in language that fits the user need. I was a teacher with iPad and tech training, helping out the teachers at my school to take advantage of the iPad so the vocabulary had to fit that role. As it turns out, my speech therapist felt that the iPads definitely had a place in therapy and in communication with the world in general.
She encouraged me to try and find out cool applications that would assist in therapy and become an expert in the adaptability features of the iPad and Android devices. Talk about a baptism by fire, my first training session was to the team of speech therapists at the local group of hospitals about learning how to use the iPad and setting up the adaptable features of the newly bought NHS iPads.
My speech therapist and a Stroke Association Communication Support Coordinator helped me to run an ‘iPad for Stroke Survivors’ group in the local library, where I would answer the inevitable questions: set up, use, and show the adaptability features, and showcase apps and games that could aid in the groups recovery. Not all the apps were therapy apps – transport, shopping, news, weather apps were tested out by the group. No two strokes are the same, so I was kept on my toes to the varied needs and wants of the group.
By this time, I had gone through the volunteer induction and completed the Stroke Ambassador training. I went to ‘Know Your Blood Pressure’ events, staffed the booth at public events, and shared stroke prevention literature. I was involved in the “Back to Work’ project as a volunteer. I was a beta tester and initial user of ‘My Stroke Guide’, and I was pleased that the Stroke Association has released it to all. I completed the Back to Work Stroke Mentor Training, but sadly as the programme started, we left London and moved to Wells, Somerset.
I help out at the Wells Communication group and I have spoken at the regional meeting, telling my story and offering to help with technology, iPads, Android, desktop and laptop. I have Skyped with a group in Plymouth. I look forward to many more.
My ‘usual day’, is checking Twitter to see, ‘like’, and comment on stroke-related posts. Then I go on ‘MyStroke Guide’ and check on the chat, provide answers and feedback, and try to encourage conversation and point out the excellent resources that are on there. Gardening, composing, and reading have a slot in my day as well.
My top tips for recovery? Never say 'can’t' and develop an attitude of gratitude. I learned the hard way to stop comparing yourself before the stroke as a gauge for your recovery. Instead, look back on when you first woke up after the stroke and see what you were able to do and then measure the progress. That is the true measure of how far you have come.