Every 40 seconds, someone in the U.S. has a stroke, a staggering statistic that marks stroke as the most common neurological injury. There have been strides in emergency stroke care with public health campaigns like “BE FAST” to help raise awareness of the first signs of stroke (balance, eyes, face arm, speech, time) and emphasize the importance of getting medical care as soon as possible.

Stroke patients consistently report high satisfaction with their treatment at stroke centers and rehabilitation centers. However nationwide, patient and family satisfaction scores drop dramatically once patients are discharged. Scientific needs studies consistently report that upwards of 80 percent of stroke survivors report one or more significant unmet needs, especially in the areas of education and support.

This need to help bridge the gap in care for stroke survivors led local neuropsychologist, Karen D. Sullivan, PhD, ABPP, and graphic designer Carrie Frye to spend nearly two years creating the I CARE FOR YOUR BRAIN Interactive Stroke Recovery Guide. Published in June, this guide is now being provided to all stroke patients discharged at the FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital Primary Stroke Center in Pinehurst, courtesy of a grant from The Foundation of FirstHealth. The guide contains Sullivan’s summary of the stroke recovery literature in the form of her 10 rules of rehab.

“I set out to create a guide that gives people three things: comprehensive science-based information, motivational strategies to apply that knowledge to their unique stroke circumstance, and the tools to monitor and track their recovery progress after leaving the hospital,” says Sullivan, owner of Pinehurst Neuropsychology.

To further demonstrate their commitment to optimizing care for local stroke survivors, The Foundation of FirstHealth is also sponsoring a Stroke Recovery Group. This 10-month pilot program, led by Sullivan and based upon her 10 rules of rehab, is free of charge and open to all stroke survivors, their caregivers as well as rehab professionals. The first session meets Tuesday, Oct. 15 from 1-2:30 p.m. at the Clara McLean House, located at 20 First Village Drive, Pinehurst.

“The Foundation’s philanthropic goals encompass many advocacy programs for our patients and the families FirstHealth serves,” says foundation president Kathy Stockham. “The intentional design of the Clara McLean House has caused it to become a haven for our support programs. Recovering from a stroke can be a very arduous process for both the patient and caregiver. We believe Dr. Sullivan’s Stroke Recovery Group program is second-to-none and will be deemed a valuable resource for folks pursuing a return to quality of life.”

Sullivan adds, “Our goal is to make a long-term impact on the wellness of our community by creating the manual and materials so the Stroke Recovery Group maximizes recovery for participants for many years to come.”

Each meeting of the Stroke Recovery Group will begin with a lecture by Sullivan on the rule being covered that month with evidence-based support and empowerment, followed by a question and answer session with attendees to ensure understanding of the rule and how it can be applied in everyday life. Participants will also have the opportunity to share and learn from each other’s experiences. Meetings will end with interactive experiences, such as chair yoga or music therapy, to foster a positive recovery mindset.

“Stroke survivors deserve every resource possible to move forward in their recovery journey, both physically and emotionally,” says Melanie Blacker, MD, Medical Director of the FirstHealth Stroke Center. “The upcoming Stroke Recovery Group sessions will guide patients through a comprehensive, individualized program to move forward and gain knowledge to maximize recovery and resiliency.” 

FirstHealth’s Primary Stroke Center care team knows firsthand the challenges stroke survivors face after discharge.

“Stroke recovery does not end when the patient is discharged home or when insurance benefits are exhausted,” says Barbara McGrath, RN, FirstHealth stroke coordinator. “Challenges often delay or halt the journey toward a new normal, which is why I am so excited about the Stroke Recovery Group being made possible by The Foundation of FirstHealth and Dr. Sullivan, as she teaches how her 10 rules of rehab can be applied to each individual’s unique situation, giving them the best opportunity for a successful recovery.”

Attendees will leave each meeting with handouts detailing the content of the session, a behavior change tracker to reinforce the application of learning and additional community resources.

After the Oct. 15 kickoff meeting, the Stroke Recovery Group meets monthly on Tuesday for nine additional sessions: Nov. 12, Dec. 17, Jan. 14, 2020, Feb. 11, Mar. 17, Apr. 14, May 12, Jun. 16 and July 14 at the Clara McLean House from 1-2:30 p.m.

“Whether the stroke was last month or 40 years ago, a big stroke or a mini-stroke, Sullivan says, “it doesn’t matter, there is always room for more recovery.”

To register or for more information on the Stroke Recovery Group, call 910-420-8041 or email [email protected]

Courtesy photo: Dr. Karen D. Sullivan and stroke survivor Barbara Clark.



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