A stroke of gratitude

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World Stroke Day is Oct. 29, 2019. Allan Campbell shares his story of recovery at both London Health Science Centre and Parkwood Institute after experiencing a devastating stroke.

Like any other night, Allan Campbell went to bed after a long day of work. Little did he know that at 11:45 pm - his life would forever change. No longer a typical start to the week, Campbell woke up in the middle of the night unable to move, walk or communicate after suffering from a devastating stroke. A night he soon won’t forget. 

His wife, Sharon, immediately called 911. Two paramedics placed him on a stretcher and rushed him to London Health Science Centre’s Emergency Department at University Hospital.

“I thought I was going to die,” says Campbell. “I was pretty sure this might be the end.”

Campbell, 54, was taken to the Acute Stroke Unit on the seventh floor of University Hospital where he would spend the next several weeks in recovery. 

University Hospital is the Southwestern Ontario Stroke Network (SWOSN)’s Regional Stroke Centre, one of 11 similar centres across Ontario. As the Regional Stroke Centre, LHSC provides specialized stroke care and prevention. 

On a feeding tube and still unable to communicate, Campbell slowly began his long journey of recovery. Supported by a team of dedicated staff, Campbell was soon able to bare weight and successfully use the therapy bars – regaining both his strength and independence.  

After weeks of hard work and rehabilitation in hospital, Campbell became surrounded by something he will never take for granted – his family. LHSC staff made it possible for Campbell to attend his niece’s wedding day. With a driver and wheelchair provided, the opportunity to see her walk down the aisle with friends and family still stirs up emotion in him to this day.

“They went above and beyond what they were asked to do,” says a teary Campbell. “I am very grateful for the outstanding staff at LHSC and the care I received. I really felt they took a genuine interest in my recovery.” 

After seven weeks of acute care at LHSC, Campbell’s care transitioned to Parkwood Institute’s Stroke Rehabilitation Program, part of the Comprehensive Outpatient Rehabilitation Program (CORP). CORP assisted Campbell and his family caregivers to complete his recovery and help integrate him back into his home and community. CORP is a time-limited adult outpatient rehabilitation program providing services to patients recovering primarily from stroke and/or neurological conditions. 

“They had me walking three to four times a day over a 45-minute period,” says Campbell. “They taught me how to slide from my wheelchair into my bed and into my car – things I never thought I would be able to do again.”  

With the help of Parkwood Institute’s Community Stroke Rehabilitation Team (CSRT), Campbell was able to return to his home a few months later. CSRT provides therapy in a variety of settings, including the home, for adults recovering from stroke. CSRT partners with the South West Local Health Integration Network, Community Care and primary care providers in the community to ensure stroke survivors are provided individualized care. Campbell has made significant gains through this rehabilitation and recovery at both LHSC and Parkwood Institute. Over a five month period, he regained his ability to swallow, to speak and to walk with the assistance of a walker. Campbell is even planning to return to work on a part-time basis.

Campbell has come a long way, both emotionally and physically, since that devastating night.

“They really did give me my life back,” says Campbell of the care he received at both organizations. “You really have to trust the process and the staff from the hospitals. They know what they are doing – listen to their expertise - and you will see the results.”

The South West LHIN and the Southwestern Ontario Stroke Network have identified improving stroke care as a priority. Over the past several years, the have worked to improve the quality of stroke care across the continuum of care (ensuring access to secondary stroke prevention, acute stroke unit care, and rehabilitation in hospital and in the community) through the implementation of best practice thus reducing mortality and improving the outcomes of stroke survivors.