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Caregiver Story: Chris Stephens

Chris Stephen’s life was changed when he arrived home from work to find his wife lying on the floor. Rosie had suffered a massive stroke.

After several days in the Intensive Care Unit at Duke University Hospital, Rosie's condition began to stabilize, and she was later transferred to inpatient rehabilitation for physical, occupational and speech therapy. Rosie could not walk or use her left arm and had trouble swallowing.

About two weeks before Chris was scheduled to return to work, Rosie was diagnosed with pneumonia and admitted to Greenery Rehabilitation Center in Durham, NC.

There Chris noticed remarkable improvement in Rosie's health and spirit. She was fed throughout the night by a G-tube. “Rosie gained weight and was now able to give great effort during her therapy sessions and enjoyed them,” said Chris. “She also enjoyed helping the other residents, baking cookies for them and leading board games during recreational therapy.” Chris could return home at night, knowing Rosie was well taken care of.

One evening when Chris brought his dinner to the Greenery, another improvement occurred. “Rosie hesitantly asked me for a fry, then another, and another. She had forgotten about her fear of swallowing, and the suctioning device. Soon after, she was able to eat solid food while staff monitored her. Rosie passed her swallowing study, the feeding tube was removed and this time she was healthy and truly ready to be discharged and return home.”

Rosie and Chris started attending stroke support group meetings at Teer House in 2001. “It was there we were able to share our story and meet other people who were going through similar challenges.” In 2006, the stroke support group moved to Durham Regional Hospital where both Rosie and Chris continued to attend each month.

Rosie showed progress for years after her stroke. Unfortunately, nearly 10 years later, and one day after their fifteenth wedding anniversary, Rosie suffered a series of small strokes and was hospitalized. Rosie's condition deteriorated quickly and it was not feasible to attempt surgery. Rosie was transferred to Duke Hospice at Hock Family Pavilion where she was cared for until her passing September 15, 2009.

Over three years have passed since Rosie’s death, and Chris continues to be involved in the stroke support group to offer hope and support to others. He has only missed one meeting since her passing. “I continue to attend the stroke support group at Durham Regional Hospital every month, in hopes of helping other stroke survivors and caregivers as they transition back to a productive life.”

 

The stroke support group at Durham Regional Hospital offers education, support and resources for individuals who have been affected by stroke as well as their family members and caregivers. This group meets the second Monday of each month from 1-2:30 p.m. To register, visit durhamregional.org/events.