Doug and Lori Neve are celebrating the one-year anniversary of the creation of the Stroke Survivors Offering Support program at the Mercy Stroke Center in Mason City. But their journey to become “stroke survivor consultants” has been a difficult one.
Doug Neve was 42 years old and buying his wife a birthday gift when he had a stroke in 2007. Even though Doug received prompt emergency treatment for his stroke, he suffered physical damage. He spent five weeks in Mercy’s Acute Rehabilitation Unit and another five weeks at another facility fighting to regain his ability to walk and talk again. Doug continues to live with weakness on one side and difficulty expressing his thoughts, a condition known as aphasia.
Lori Neve, Doug’s wife, recalls her thoughts immediately after his stroke.
“I thought to myself, he is too young to be having a stroke. At first I was in denial about how severe his stroke was. I had no idea how long and hard the road to recovery was going to be and how our roles as a married couple would change,” she said.
In early 2011, Jennifer Thoe, RN, MSN and Nurse Coordinator for the Mercy Stroke Center was developing a support program that could benefit the Stroke Center’s patients and families.
“My next step was to try to find the right people to fill this important role,” said Thoe. “That is when Doug and Lori answered our prayers and actually approached me about wanting to develop a program that would allow them to support other survivors through their unique journey recovering from stroke.”
Mercy Stroke Center decided to launch “ShareGivers”, a peer visitor program of the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association. After completing classes designed to address the physical and emotional changes stroke survivors face, peer visitors are equipped to help others move forward.
“We decided to call our program Stroke Survivors Offering Support, or “Stroke SOS”, to better explain to staff and patients what the program is all about,” said Thoe
The road to Doug’s recovery has had its ups and downs and still continues.
“What impresses me about Doug is his positive attitude and drive to improve his strength. He uses that enthusiasm to try to motivate other survivors,” said Thoe.
“Don’t let people tell you that you will not improve after a certain amount of time,” said Doug. “I am still seeing little improvements through workouts and daily activities.”
Along with supporting survivors, another goal of the program is to support and empower caregivers through active listening and providing information about available resources.
“Lori gives visible proof to caregivers that while it is not always easy, they can cope with life after stroke and not be afraid to ask for help or guidance from others”, said Thoe.
In the year that Doug and Lori have worked with the program, they have assisted over 58 stroke survivors and their families. If you or someone you know would like to speak with a stroke peer visitor, or want to become stroke peer visitors and are at least 18 months post-stroke, please call Jennifer Thoe at 641-428-7109.