Shirley McCracken, then 76, didn’t lose consciousness or experience a sudden inability to speak, blurry vision, or paralysis. But something wasn’t right one morning in November 2011 and both she and her son Chris knew it.

“I had uncontrollable movement in my left arm and my left leg,” Shirley recalls. “Chris quickly took me to the hospital (in Markdale). They said my symptoms were very unusual for a stroke.”

When the twitching continued, Shirley was referred to a neurologist at the Grey Bruce Health Services Owen Sound location. After further testing he diagnosed her with a stroke – in her case a type of “brain attack” so unusual he sees only one or two each year. Recovery could take several months to a year or more.

And this is where Shirley’s story diverges from those of many other stroke survivors. There was no admission to hospital, no talk of long-term care, no respite care, no tiring visits to
various rehabilitation services. Shirley instead received comprehensive rehabilitation in her own home by the Community Stroke RehabilitationTeam (CSRT) from her area.

“I had visits from a nurse, social worker, recreation specialist, rehabilitation therapist, occupational therapist and physiotherapist.”

Regular visits from the OT and PT allowed Shirley support as she worked on a series of exercises intended to build strength in her affected hand or walk around her house and neighbourhood to work on her balance and stamina. Once per week they guided her activity at a therapeutic pool where she, “really noticed a difference in my muscle and in my balance.”

She was also later given walking poles which helped her regain her balance and coordination. Chris McCracken is equally enthusiastic about the CSRT. “With the Team coming to the house we could coordinate the many appointments so they were well spaced and fairly short,” he recalls. “And they started immediately with telling mom what she could do to start getting better, which was really positive.” While he feels fortunate that he’s been around full-time to care for his mom, he has appreciated the team’s support of his learning what he could about stroke and how to care for a new stroke survivor. They helped him decide on equipment for the bathroom and purchasing a “rollator” (or walker with wheels) and how to ensure the household environment was optimal for helping Shirley get around.