Hospital joins with local association to provide hope to new stroke patients

June 27 Linking Survivors With Survivors is a program of March of Dimes Canada. As it name says, it is a peer support program that provides hope and encouragement to stroke survivors and their families. The program’s specially-trained volunteers are now coming into an acute care hospital setting and GGH is the first in our Waterloo Wellington LHIN. Before, those meetings were usually done only after a patient had been discharged from hospital.

So far, it’s been a great success says Barbara Moore from March of Dimes Canada. She credits the great teamwork they’ve experienced with the Hospital. She also has nothing but praise for her volunteers who go through a lengthy training process before becoming a peer-to-peer mentor.

Linking Survivors with Survivors 2
Dan (left) and Sue (middle) are volunteer mentors. They're with three nurses from GGH's Stroke Unit and Barbara Moore (right). 

She admits there was some initial concern that newly diagnosed patients might not be ready to meet but that generally hasn’t been the experience of Dan Trotta and Sue Gillis – the two mentors who come on a weekly basis. Dan comes on Mondays and Sue on Thursdays. Both can easily relate to what GGH patients are going though.

Dan had spent months in hospital recovering from his stroke without such a program. He said the experience was very isolating and not something he wants others to go through. “People in acute care are invariably afraid,” he says. “They do tend to open up to me after I share my story.”

What he and Sue mostly provide is a sense of hope, says Sue. “We share our journey and provide encouragement.” The mentors also give out resource material including information about peer support groups in the community.

It’s been very well received by Hospital staff and a huge benefit to stroke patients, says Deb Hastings, Manager of the Stroke Unit. “It is helpful for the patients to hear from someone who has been there and shared the same story,” says Deb. “It is very supportive and provides that light at the end of the tunnel for patients and families as they adjust to their new normal in stroke recovery.”

Barbara says she hopes to expand the program and have mentors in every rehab facility.