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Caregiver Story: Marie Savoy

In July 2012, Marie’s husband Keith suffered a massive stroke.

Keith was treated at Duke University Hospital for about two weeks, then transferred to Durham Regional Hospital’s Durham Rehabilitation Institute where he stayed for nearly four months. Since then, Keith has received treatment at the Brian Center of Durham. “All the nurses, doctors and CNAs at Duke and Durham Regional were wonderful,” said Marie.

Keith’s recovery has been difficult— not only for him but also for Marie. The support Marie has received from Keith’s care team has been important. “All the nurses tell me I’m doing a great job, which is nice because Keith doesn’t know all I am doing for him.”

Keith has global aphasia and apraxia, which means he is not able to speak and he can’t use his right arm or leg.

“One of Keith’s gifts was communication. It has been difficult for him not being able to speak or communicate. It is hard for me because I was used to Keith doing the talking in public and now I have to be the one to talk."

By luck Keith and Marie refinanced their mortgage in January 2012 and found more affordable options for vehicle and homeowners insurance. “If we had not made those changes I wouldn’t have been able to make payments.”

Marie has worked full time for Durham Public Schools since 1999. “I always worked however many hours were necessary to get the job done. Now I’m in the office five to seven hours a day and then I work at home or while I’m visiting with Keith to make up the time.”  

A typical day for Marie involves going to work, working out (if she can fit it in) and then going to the Brian Center. There she has a snack with Keith, they eat dinner together, she gets him ready for bed and then drives 45 minutes home to Rougemont. “Caring for Keith truly is a second job. It is exhausting.”

Marie makes time in her busy schedule to attend the stroke support group meetings at Durham Regional Hospital to connect with others who are working through the same issues. “When I listen to people’s stories it makes me realize every stroke patient has to have an advocate. Keith is working on getting better, but I’m doing all the rest.” This realization has helped Marie understand her role as a key member of Keith’s care team.

Keith is currently learning to walk with a therapist. He hasn’t walked with Marie yet, but she helps with his transfers in and out of bed. He can read short messages, eat normally and say words like “yeah,” “thank you,” “okay” and “hello”.

Marie is hopeful Keith will continue to make progress and eventually return home.

 

 May is Stroke Awareness Month. Stroke warning signs include the sudden onset of:

  • numbness or weakness of the face or limbs
  • confusion or trouble speaking
  • dizziness or loss of balance
  • trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • difficulty walking
  • sudden severe headache

If you notice any of these symptoms, call 911. For more information, visit durhamregional.org/stroke.