The American Heart Association is celebrating a group of stroke survivors who have completed a program that will allow them to offer support to newly recovering stroke patients and their families.
The so-called "sharegivers" will visit patients at their hospital bedside to talk about their own recovery following a stroke.
"A lot of them want to know if they're going to still be able to do the things they used to do. Driving is a big question mark all of the time," said Rob Wasserman. He suffered a severe stroke in 1999, when he was just 47. Wasserman remembers the experience vividly.
"It was a bad enough stroke that I was on the other side. I saw the white light. I was unconscious for a few days and then I came back. I did not know anyone but my wife and my kids. Did not know close relative, friends. I took months to learn all of that and to learn who I was again."
Wasserman now leads the sharegivers group at Strong Hospital. He said mentoring other stroke patients is good therapy for him. He recalls receiving similar support from a fellow stroke survivor when Rob talked to him about feeling distant and isolated at a family wedding.
"It was just nice knowing that other people had gone through that and felt that same way and that I wasn't feeling something different, I guess."
Wasserman said there are some questions people have that they find easier to ask a fellow stroke survivor than their doctor. Some patients simply want reassurance that they will be able to resume their lives again and relearn physical tasks, such as driving.
Volunteers in the sharegivers program go through weeks of training before they mentor stroke patients. A group of sharegivers is graduating from their training class Thursday evening. The program is a partnership between the American Heart Association, Nazareth College, and some local hospitals.