Our Stories

Meet Dee

As many of you know, our longtime friend Dee Wittke is an extraordinary woman who spends the majority of her time volunteering for various organizations in the community. She spends many afternoons driving seniors and other persons in need to medical appointments through a volunteer program at the Molalla Senior Center.

With a full schedule and a long list of friends in the Portland community, Dee is living a rich and fulfilling life many of us aspire to have in our retirement. She currently attends the Speak EZ support group and also is a regular at Aphasia Camp Northwest.

Thirteen years ago Ms. Wittke had a stroke resulting in aphasia, but she never lets this get in the way of accomplishing new feats. Last fall she embarked on yet another great endeavor, and this time she brought one of our most dedicated student volunteers along for the ride.

Dee being the adventurous risk taker she is, felt it was time to complete her first skydive since her stroke.Feeling inspired by Dee’s drive to overcome challenges, Portland State University student Katie helping at the support group, took the initiative to facilitate a jump date and location for Dee on one condition: she would get to experience her first skydive as Dee’s jump partner. At 75 years young, 48 years, two months and five days after her 92nd jump Dee completed her 93rd skydive!! And she isn done yet. She has a goal of completing 100 jumps!!

 

To find out more about Dee and her amazing accomplishment, please visit:

http://www.pamplinmedia.com/mop/157-news/194884- the-93rd- jump

 
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Meet Toni

Toni is a stroke survivor who found a love for painting after trying adapted painting at Aphasia Camp NW Adventure Weekend in Oregon. Toni was diagnosed with aphasia and hemi-paresis after suffering a massive stroke in 2002. Aphasia is an acquired communication disorder that impairs a person’s ability to produce language but does not affect intelligence. Toni enjoyed crafting prior to her stroke but had never painted. Having been right-handed, Toni had to learned how to create these extraordinarily beautiful paintings using her non-dominant left hand. Painting has become a way for Toni to express herself without spoken language. Aphasia is an isolating condition in our speech-based world and Toni has found a new community with fellow painters that connect through their art process. She uses art as a bridge to communicate. Toni’s husband and full-time care partner, Mike, loved seeing how much she enjoyed painting. He encouraged her to grow her hobby and helped her to begin working with artist Joan Porter in 2016. Toni paints about 3 hours per week, and Joan has been an artistic mentor to Toni and has helped her grow as an artist.

 

Meet Lynn & Tim 

Who is Lynn? Lynn is a well-educated professional. She earned a Ph.D. in genetics, board-certification in medical genetics and from 1997 until 2005 she served as the Director of Program Services at the Idaho March of Dimes.

Recovery from stroke. In the spring of 2005 Lynn began having intermittent blurred vision. An MRI detected a brain aneurism, and three days later she was taken into surgery to repair the ballooning artery, which had not ruptured. During surgery, the aneurism burst, damaging the right frontal and temporal portions of her brain. Post-surgery Lynn was in a coma for 2 weeks. When she returned to consciousness, she was unable to speak; she remained hospitalized for 3 months. Lynn was discharged with severe aphasia, left-sided paralysis and spasticity; basic self-care required assistance, and she relied on a wheelchair for mobility.

Fifteen months post stroke, Lynn and her husband and primary care partner Tim attended Aphasia Camp NW for the first time. Lynn’s speech was halting: she struggled to retrieve words, often with little success, and as a result, she was very frustrated. Having been a professional with an active life-style prior to her stroke, she hadn't begun to adjust to her new reality of managing simple daily tasks, often with the assistance of a care-partner. As with many people with aphasia, she was unable to communicate and interact with friends and family, and they drifted apart.

Over the past ten years, Lynn’s speech has improved remarkably, she is able to walk with a cane, and she has regained a good deal of independence. She has attended Aphasia Camp for nine consecutive years along with her spouse and care partner Tim. Determined to make a difference, Lynn draws on her experience with aphasia and her previous work as a health professions educator to advocate for people with aphasia.

What lies ahead? Tim and Lynn both serve on the Aphasia Network Board of Directors and Advisory Council. In 2012 the Advisory Council’s assessment of needs in the aphasia community pointed clearly to a need for building a new vision for interacting with health care professionals –doctors, nurses, speech therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists – who work with people with aphasia. The goal is to create individualized integrated life skills programs to help people with aphasia and their care partners, while at the same time encouraging students in these same professions to learn about the challenges of living with aphasia. These challenges are not separated into academic disciplines, but rather they impact the whole person, and the most effective strategies often involve family members, care partners and other members of a support team.

Tim’s experience as an advocate for Lynn during her recovery from stroke is augmented by his career as a college professor and administrator. He is helping other care partners get involved in managing the transition from acute care to rehabilitation to a life skills program that will sustain recovery from brain injury or stroke for many years to come.

 

Meet Bobbi & Don 

My wife Bobbi had her stroke in October of 1994. Both of us were working at the time, but after Bobbi’s stroke she was no longer able to work and I retired in the first part in 1995. All through our lives we set goals, but they don’t always work out. You start out wanting to do something one way but you adapt.

Bobbi’s doctors said she would only improve for at most two years. For the first year after her stroke, Bobbi couldn’t walk or talk, and she went to occupational therapy, speech therapy, and physical therapy three times a week. But I worked with her every day for five years using word search books to help improve her reading and speaking and I had her push against my hand and do exercises with her leg each day. Most people want to let someone else do it, but an hour session once or twice a week is not enough therapy. Bobbi worked really hard. And did all the work I made her do. It takes a tough person to work that hard, and Bobbi is really tough. That’s why she is still improving, even after 16 years.

Now that Bobbi is doing better, I work with other caregivers to help them and the stroke survivors in our Continuous Improvement support group. We’ve really bonded with the other people in that group, and we like to see the stroke survivors and caregivers learning together. We know it’s hard for new families to take the step to join a group like ours, so I like to help there too. Recently I talked about 45 minutes with man who is a caregiver for his wife. He’s going to come to our group for the first time next week, and hopefully he and his wife will join our group. I’ve found that if people come to at least two of our group sessions, they bond with us and then they continue coming back. It’s important to keep the group alive with new people.

In the future, Bobbi and I will continue to meet weekly with the Continuous Improvement group. We also plan to attend Aphasia Camp Northwest and to go camping and work on fundraising with our Good Sams group. We learn from each other and try to help where we can.

 

Meet Doris 

My name is Doris and I am a stroke survivor. I had two hemorrhagic strokes on January 18, 2002. At the time of the stroke, I was almost five months pregnant. Once I arrived at the emergency room, the neurosurgeon attempted to stop the bleeding in my brain. A half an hour later, the bleeding started and he had to perform a second surgery. At the time of the surgery, the surgeon made saving my baby a top priority. Once the baby was stable, he found ways to save my life. I owe my life to the neurosurgeon and the incredible medical staff. I am also grateful for saving my son Emilio Alexander who was born on April 22, 2002. Emilio is my MIRACLE, and Martin is my INCREDIBLE husband.

Part of my amazing recovery is owed to the wonderful speech therapists and physical therapists. However, this journey was not easy because I could not walk or talk for almost three years. With the help of amazing people throughout the years my recovery has drastically improved. I currently have paralysis on my right side, but I am able to walk a little bit with my cane. Finally, I regained 85% speech ability in English and trying to regain some of my Spanish. We heard about Stroke Camp Northwest by sheer coincidence. Martin was talking to the speech therapist at the hospital. The therapist happened to mention that there was a camp for stroke survivors and their love ones in Oregon. Martin thought it would be a good idea and we should go. At the time, I felt I was not ready. But, we ended up going to the camp. It was difficult for me because I couldn't talk at all. Yet after all was said and done, we really had a great time!

We have returned to Aphasia Camp Northwest each year since 2003. Every year, we meet so many incredible people. At camp we have cried, laughed and smiled. We will continue to be part of Aphasia Camp Northwest for many years to come. To all of the staff, stroke survivors and loved ones, I want to say “THANK YOU!”