Stroke Life Society

"United In Pursuit Of Living And Helping Others"

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Ben Thomas' Story

 

 

          The world as I knew it changed forever on one hot summer day in 1998. I had suffered a hemorrhagic stroke at the age of 47 with a young vibrant family and a successful career in bank finance. In a brief moment all I had known and believed was cruelly displaced seemingly forever. I was scared and felt emasculated fearing for the future of my family who I loved deeply and who depended on me.  Bewildered and unable to fully comprehend what had happened, I felt broken and lost. At that time my mother gave me a compass set in a stone to help me find my way home and so after my hospitalization I plunged into a protracted rehabilitation regimen that ultimately included hundreds of physical and occupational therapies, biofeedback/psychotherapy sessions, Botox injections, trials with FES devices (Walkaide/ Bioness L300) for foot drop, many daily medicines to address the underlying cause/impact of my stroke (hypertension/ tremors, etc) and use of various short leg braces including the dreaded cane! Although my recovery was compounded by the subsequent discovery of a serious heart problem requiring implantation of multiple stents, I firmly believed that over time these efforts would restore my life as it was. It didn't and left me with several cognitive impairments and significant right sided physical deficits (leg and arm).  Unable to resume my work in banking I soaked in depression over my hopeless loss of normalcy. My strength waned as my anger and frustration mounted. I was embarrassed (using a cane) and felt increasingly irrelevant and isolated despite the constancy and love of a large and proactive family.

            John Lennon once wrote "that life is what happens to you when you're making plans". This was now my life to live having been essentially reborn as a result of my stroke and now hoping to redefine myself. I always loved history so I read. My grandmother instilled in me importance of fun in life so I sought anything that could make me laugh but still felt trapped in the "depth of my winter" of despair. Seeking others who had "walked in my shoes" I began attending a stroke survivor support group at Long Island Jewish Hospital and quickly felt connected and the comfort of expressing my inner self openly to others who intuitively understood. Rose Gonzaga-Camfield, our perceptive nurse stroke support meeting leader instilled in all of us the pivotal importance of the human spirit in treating the whole person and the mantra to "never stop moving".  I discovered within myself a peace in sharing and a joy in helping others, restoring my self-esteem while re-energizing my life's goal to live strong.  In September, 2010, I co-founded the Stroke Life Society a grassroots community driven organization dedicated to providing unconditional support services to both stroke survivors and co-survivors within an a "safe haven" environment shaped to humanize the face of stroke enabling survivors to laugh, share, make friends, help others and to eventually regain their spiritual footing in their own rebirth to live happy and productive lives. June 15th marked our 100th support meeting and for me the realization that with the help of so many others "I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer". I finally found my way home!

 

To contact Ben:

Send email to survivor@strokelife.org and be sure to put 'Ben Thomas' in subject text.

 

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