RACINE — A Stroke Support Group operating out of Ascension All Saints Hospital, 3803 Spring St., is focused on educating and enriching the lives of people who’ve endured a stroke, along with their families.
The group meets on the second Wednesday of each month. At its core, this support group connects patients, families and the community to the resources and support one may need post-stroke.
In addition, attendees receive encouragement and community through the group.
These services are free of charge and open to anyone, not just those who are current or former patients at Ascension.
In the United States, approximately 1 in 20 adult deaths are due to stroke, yet it is estimated that 80% of all strokes are preventable according to the CDC.
Nurse makes a grand impact
Leading the group and working to help equip stroke survivors and their support systems with the tools they need to succeed is Registered Nurse, Hollie Landreman.
She has served as the Stroke Program Coordinator since 2016 but has been involved with stroke care since 2013 when she worked in data abstraction. Landreman explained that all stroke patients are entered into a national database through the American Heart/Stroke Association.
That’s not all for this nurse. In 2016, in addition to her role in helping stroke survivors, she also continued her career in the Intensive Care Unit. In August, Landreman will celebrate 30 years with the local hospital.
“This was one of the things that I felt our community needed,” said Landreman about having a stroke support group.
The group began in August 2021, and since then has impacted many lives locally.
The “main mission is to bring our stroke survivors and their caregivers together,” Landreman said.
Since the forming of the group, Landreman has worked with coordinators across the state, and with the Wisconsin Coverdell Stroke Program through the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) to improve patient experience.
For example, the group has had the Racine Police Department, Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) of Racine County, therapists, nutritionists/dieticians, individuals from the pharmacy, and other community agencies or affiliates as speakers at their group.
“My philosophy is, if we have one person show up we’re going to impact that person: with our speaker, talking through things and answering questions,” she said.
The Racine County Eye had the opportunity to speak with two sets of patients and their caretakers, who have benefited from the support group.
Pam and her husband Kevin Ehnert, both from Racine, are no strangers to how a stroke can change one’s life.
Two years ago, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pam (at age 70) had a gut feeling that something was wrong when she became lightheaded, had numbness in her hands, and just felt, unlike her normal self.
After an Emergency Department visit, being diagnosed with a stroke, admission to the hospital and going through recovery, she found this support group and turned to it to learn how to navigate life as a survivor with residual effects.
For her, the group has been extremely beneficial in connecting with others. It was here that Pam met a fellow stroke survivor who turned to music to cope, leading her to learn how to play a small guitar and use that as a creative outlet.
“When people come in here, they feel at ease. They realize that other people have gone through a stroke or a similar experience,” said Kevin.
Pam believes the support group has poured confidence back into herself, too. It reminds her that she is more than the stroke she had.
“I have so many roles in my life. I’m a Christian woman, a wife, a mother, a stepmother, a grandma, a caregiver, a businesswoman, an aunt, a cousin, and a friend, to name a few. Having a stroke has really put the importance of those relationships into perspective. They could all be gone in a moment, and we should never take them for granted,” said the stroke survivor.
Michael Kandl is another individual who participates in the monthly group. He was 59 years old when he had a stroke. Now, a year later, he’s still recovering and learning to live life with residual stroke symptoms.
Anita Kandl, his caregiver, recalls it being an average day when he had his stroke. They were at home together, getting ready to watch the Packer game, when he stopped responding to her the way he typically does. Given that Michael is diabetic, she thought his change in behavior was due to his chronic condition. It led her to call 911.
Much to her surprise, it was news no one ever wants to hear—not an issue related to diabetes—but a stroke. Michael’s stroke led him to be taken by helicopter to a Milwaukee hospital, have surgery, be enrolled in various types of therapy, and work to trying to figure out how to navigate a new normal.
“It’s a day-by-day thing or a time-by-time thing. It’s not going to be the same all the time,” said Anita about life after a stroke.
Not only has this journey helped Michael cope and gain skills to adapt, but it also has provided important information for his caregiver on how to create a healthier life to help prevent further strokes from occurring.
“I have somebody to talk to who knows what I am going through,” said Anita.
It’s why they feel a group like this is crucial.
Translating for Michael, Anita explained that Michael wants his story out there, and wants people to learn about what can contribute to a stroke, and how a group like this can really make a difference for people who’ve survived, those caretaking, or hoping to gain more knowledge.
Stroke Support Group
To get connected to the Stroke Support Group, visit the group’s webpage to learn more.
To learn more about strokes, Ascension All Saints has published an article for public awareness on stroke signs and prevention. Read that by clicking on the article here.
For more information, please visit the American Stroke Association.
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