Stroke rehab allows young mom to resume life

About 315,000 Canadians are living with the effects of stroke. For Alyssa Gilbert, a 35-year old mother of two, a stroke induced by childbirth was the last thing she expected going into labour with her second child. What she believed was a high blood pressure reading commonly experienced by mothers on the mend from childbirth was actually a symptom of a stroke, which would change her life. 

Alyssa Gilbert with her baby

As a result of her stroke, Gilbert lost control of her fine motor skills, struggled with her speech and could not solve simple math problems — a devastating blow for someone who recently completed her PhD in astronomy. Rehabilitation for stroke patients can greatly affect their chances of recovery. For Gilbert, recovery was imperative, not only to resume her role as a mother, but also to start a new career in teaching.

Gilbert began her recovery at St. Joseph’s Parkwood Hospital as an inpatient and was then referred to the Community Stroke Rehabilitation Team (CSRT) after discharge. An outreach program, the CSRT aims to improve a patient’s quality of life while living in the community. A multidisciplinary team of health care professionals help clients like Gilbert achieve their recovery goals.

Studies show that the incidence of stroke is on the rise, particularly among young people, says David Ure, Coordinator of the CSRT. About 40 per cent of the program’s clients are under the age of 60. Since the program began in 2009, the number of clients served by the CSRT has nearly doubled.

“The CSRT gave me the confidence to resume my life,” says Gilbert. “It’s amazing to look back at what I’ve been through and think about how far I’ve come. The program taught me that I can make mistakes and it’s not the end of the world. ” 

Nine months later, Gilbert is still approaching her recovery one step at a time. She is able to spend time with her family and even started a knitting group for mothers and their babies, a task that seemed impossible in the aftermath of her stroke. She plans to attend teacher’s college in September.

For Stroke Awareness Month, media are invited to interview Alyssa Gilbert and members of the CSRT.  See backgrounder below for more information on the CSRT.

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