Bob never ceases to amaze me: at 92 years old, he awoke
early one morning recently, and with one hand on his walker,
he set the table, made coffee, toast and hardboiled eggs in his
electric egg cooker. Then he woke me. We begin every day
with a big hug, as we as are so thankful to have another day
to love each other. At age 88, I feel so blessed to be living
independently in my own home with my husband.
We have services from a home-health aide who
visits for his personal care. Rosalie is our angel. He also
receives services from the VA as he is Navy veteran of
WWII. He was stationed in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater,
on ships bringing in troops and supplies, seeing death
every day in many battles.
How could stroke happen to a healthy, strong body
builder, who never smoked or drank and lived a healthy
lifestyle? I don’t have an answer for that other than stroke
shows no mercy.
Stroke support groups have been our lifeline. Only a
survivor or caregiver can understand the life changes a
stroke brings. We joined the Gloucester Stroke Support
Group in 1988 at Addison Gilbert Hospital — the only
evening support group on the North Shore. We learned so
much about life after a stroke.
Bob and I also joined the
Beverly Stroke Club on the first
Thursday of each month. Speakers
were at most meetings. We were
also members of the Salem Stroke
Club, which was the oldest and
largest support group in the area.
Every group was so different.
Eventually, both of these groups
disbanded for various reasons.
Now our Gloucester Stroke
Club is the only stroke support
group on the North Shore.
Although attendance has been low,
we continue to grow. Two new
members attended recently. The
group is very informal, but we
maintain the format of beginning
each meeting with each member
telling their story and other
members listening and offering support.
I feel our members have bonded in our experiences. I
had a slight stroke in January 2010. It produced no lasting
effects, though I was unable to drive for two years until
my medication was adjusted. Bob is no longer able to
attend the meetings. He does enjoy the delicious oatmeal
cookies I bring home from the meeting.
My wish is to reach out to survivors and caregivers. My
heart breaks when I see a formerly healthy, independent
person now disabled and feeling ashamed to be seen in
public. I have spoken to many survivors who resist my
invitation to our stroke club.
The experience of joining a support group can be
lifesaving. There they will find other survivors, who against
all odds, keep improving every day. Attitude, determination
and sharing your feelings are so important. Listening to
each other’s stories and finding hope in how others have
made significant improvements in their lives. My husband’s
recovery at 92 has been beyond all expectations.
Editor’s Note: Find a support group in your area, or visit
our online Support Network to connect with other stroke
survivors and family caregivers.
Stroke support groups have been our
lifeline. Only a survivor or caregiver can
understand the life changes a stroke brings.
Survivor Robert “Bob” McKinnon with
his wife and caregiver, Virginia
Photo from Bob’s bodybuilder days, taken in
1948, when he was a 24-year-old Navy vet