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August 28, 2007 > There is Life After Stroke

There is Life After Stroke

Washington Hospital Education Series Focuses on Overcoming the Effects of Stroke

A stroke can shatter lives and alter the future. Literally a brain attack, it threatens our thought processes and physical abilities. Today there are more than 5 million stroke survivors in the United Sates, according to the National Stroke Association.
"Some stroke survivors have no symptoms while others are extremely disabled," said Doug Van Houten, registered nurse and coordinator of Washington Hospital's Stroke Program. "For many, life is very different after a stroke. But there are ways to adapt to your new life and get the most out of the abilities you still have."
To help survivors cope with life after stroke, Van Houten will address the topic at the monthly Stroke Education Series meeting on Tuesday, September 4, from 6 to 8 p.m. In addition, Dr. Ash Jain, Washington Hospital cardiologist and Stroke Program medical director, will provide a glimpse of what the future holds medically for stroke patients, including the latest interventions that can prevent some of the devastating effects of stroke. The series titled, "Life After Stroke" will be held at the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium at Washington West, Room A, 2500 Mowry Avenue, in Fremont. Call the Hospital's toll-free Health Connection line at (800) 963-7070 to register for the class.
A stroke damages the brain because it blocks blood flow, depriving it of the oxygen it needs to survive. Without oxygen, nerve cells in the affected area of the brain die within minutes.
Stroke survivors face a number of possible symptoms that can be temporary or permanent, including mild to severe paralysis, leaving some unable to walk or move. It can affect analytical and perceptual tasks, like judging distance, size, speed, or position and seeing how parts are connected to the whole. Speech and language problems as well as vision and memory loss can also occur.
"Some people continue to get better and regain abilities after a stroke through physical therapy, speech therapy and other rehabilitative services," Van Houten said. "Unfortunately, many stroke survivors suffer from depression, which can make recovery harder. Sometimes it's caused by the brain injury and sometimes it's related to an overwhelming sense of loss."

Moving Forward
The seminar is aimed at helping stroke survivors make the most out of the life they have left, whatever ability level they are at.
"I show a video of a guy who loves to golf, but he lost the use of his arm after his stroke. So he learns to golf with one arm," said Van Houten. "Being creative goes a long way toward getting the most out of your new life after a stroke. But it's hard. There can be many obstacles, I understand that. The seminar is meant to be part motivational, part empathetic."
It's important for stroke survivors to work toward a new "normal" instead of trying to do everything the way they used to do it. It's helpful if you can accept that your body has changed and learn how to stay as active and productive as possible so you can live a good quality of life.
The seminar will provide a number of tips for stroke survivors. For example, stay involved with people and activities you enjoy most. Look for opportunities to do something worthwhile or fun.
Make sure you get out of the house on a regular basis. Try not to succumb to feelings of embarrassment if you need a walker or a wheelchair. Getting out is good for you, and each time you do it successfully, you build up your confidence to do it again. Staying isolated can lead to depression.
"Stroke survivors need to stay optimistic," said Van Houten. "Continuing to do the things you love, appreciating what you have, it's all key to moving forward after a stroke. I hope stroke survivors will join us and learn they are not alone and there is life after stroke."
Stroke Support Group
As part of its goal to provide effective care for those in the community who have already had a stroke - or might be at risk in the future - Washington Hospital's Stroke Program recently started a new Stroke Support Group to help both survivors and caregivers find the resources and support they need.
The Stroke Support Group, which is being held on a monthly basis, meets the fourth Tuesday of every month at the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium located at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont. The next meeting will be held on Tuesday, September 25.
To learn more about the Stroke Education Series at Washington Hospital, call (510) 745-6525 or visit,, click on "Services & Programs" and select "Taylor McAdam Bell Neuroscience Institute" from the drop-down menu and click on "Stroke Program."

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