[mini-icon icon=”info-sign”] Originally taken from the Northeastern Ontario Stroke Network June 2013 newsletter.
In 1998, at the age of 28, Cathy Blanchfield lived through an event that would change her life forever.
Cathy, a resident of North Bay, was trying to relay a message to her late brother when he noticed the right side of her face was drooping. A CT scan found an arteriovenous malformation – an abnormal connection between the arteries and veins in her brain. Her options were to have surgery or risk dying. After an eight hour surgery at St. Michael’s Hospital, Cathy suffered a left hemorrhagic stroke causing paralysis to her right side. Cathy was newly married, wanted a family and had a good job as a bookkeeper at her family business. A stroke was not in her plans. After a month in Toronto she returned to North Bay where she spent 4 months in hospital learning how to shower, dress, feed herself, read, write and count all over again. She states she still does not count well and her debit card is a blessing when buying things. When she does have to pay with change, she holds out her hand trusting that the cashier will give her the correct change. This is a big change from her days as a bookkeeper.
Cathy spent a lot of her time being angry and depressed. The turning point was her divorce when she decided to no longer be angry and put one foot in front of the other and move on.
Today, Cathy is left with permanent disabilities, she has no movement in her right arm and her hand remains locked in a fist. She is able to walk, but moves slowly and tires easily.
Despite her challenges, Cathy lives independently, volunteers frequently, and has a boyfriend and two dogs that she dotes on. Cathy has made remarkable progress in her stroke recovery journey, but was looking for inspiration and support from people who knew what she was experiencing – fellow survivors. Cathy wanted to volunteer and be somebody who other survivors could share their stories with.
Cathy is the chair of the North Bay Stroke Support Group. This group helps stroke survivors reach out to other area survivors.
It began as a coffee group. It was only after Cathy connected with March of Dimes’ Stroke Recovery Canada® program and received support, that the group was able to expand.
What began as a meeting of five is now more than twelve and growing. Understanding, compassion and support are the hallmarks of the North Bay Stroke Group. The group helps people figure out their lives, offer social activities and a friendly ear.
Cathy is also a volunteer at the North Bay Regional Health Centre. Every Tuesday, without fail, you can find Cathy down on the Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit chatting with a stroke survivor or family member. “It is important for me to share what I’ve learned,” says Cathy. Survivors can relate better to others who have been in the same place and through the same turmoil. Cathy is an inspiration to many. She takes each day and finds the positives in it.
She gives her all in whatever she takes on and she shows us what is possible. It’s people like Cathy who really make a difference in people’s lives and we would like to thank her for her dedication to stroke survivors and their families.