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Healing with Ngurambang (Country) after stroke

By Courtney Rubie

Yiradhu marang!

G’day! My name is Courtney Rubie and I am a Wiradjuri woman living in beautiful Newcastle on Awabakal Country.

At 25 years old, I became a stroke survivor after having suffered a cerebral venous sinus thrombosis and a subarachnoid haemorrhage. Or to put it simply – I had a couple of strokes.

When stroke survivors talk about their journey after stroke, we don’t often hear about how a person’s culture plays a significant role in their recovery. You may have heard the sentiment that for First Nations peoples to feel waluwin (healthy) in their mind, body and spirit, their cultures and the land play a role in their wellbeing. This notion of holistic health is true, especially for First Nations people who have survived stroke. A huge part of what keeps our spirit strong in our post-stroke journey is how we connect to our culture, to our Ngurambang (Country) and who we connect with in our community.

Awabakal Country is special to me – I have such a strong connection to the gadhang (ocean) here. There is something really powerful in just sitting, watching and listening to the waves crash over. One by one, rolling into the next – blue-green water glistening under the sun. One way that I like to look after my mental health is by taking a drive around the beaches of Newcastle or finding a nice spot to sit or swim at Bar Beach. When I sit at the beach, I think about how special it is knowing that First Nations people have enjoyed the same beauty and energy here for tens of thousands of years before me. In the days after my stroke, I found out that I wasn’t allowed to drive for six months and I was absolutely devastated. But I was mostly worried about how I would get to the places I love. I had to accept that it was time for me to share these special places with others and for them to be seen through my eyes.

Read Courtney's full blog (EnableMe website)

My recovery from stroke showed me how much I needed nature

By David Roland

When my stroke came, it took away parts of my brain that held memory, the parts that told me how to navigate to familiar places, how to understand speech and to respond. It left me feeling weak like an old man, swooning and bumping into things on my righthand side. It took away former joys too and one of those was being active in nature.

For me, swimming in the ocean, walking for kilometres through forest or along a shoreline, working in the veggie patch, running for cover during a rainstorm, were activities I took for granted, but after the stroke I could do none of these. Even bending down to pull weeds in the garden dropped my blood pressure, leaving me faint and dizzy. I couldn’t do yoga anymore because lowering my head brought on this same vertigo. After trial and error, I found that the only exercise I could manage was using Pilates equipment with the guidance of an instructor. She kept me horizontal or vertical without any sudden head movements. This started me on the road to physical recovery.

After weeks and weeks of Pilates and gentle walking, I progressed to swimming in the pool where the stable water level kept me safe from the up and down movements that would derail me. Then marvel of marvels, after months, I progressed to swimming in the ocean when the swell was not up. My walking improved too, and I could walk a few kilometres on flat ground going round and round our local sports fields.

It wasn’t only the physical exhilaration of being in nature that I craved, it was also the sensory quiet and the peace within that it gave me. If ever I was feeling tense or anxious, or overloaded, I always knew that sitting at the beach caressed by the swishing sound of waves, a dip in the ocean, a walk in the forest, or at least, a long walk through our town’s treelined streets would calm me. My recovery from stroke showed me how much I needed nature.

Read David's full blog (EnableMe website)

How did you deal with grief and loss after having a stroke?

Saran says that it took her three years to accept her new life. During that period, she and her family dealt hugely with grief and loss, and Saran says she was an emotional wreck.  

She also exhausted herself trying to get back to the ‘old Saran’ before she came to the realisation that it was not possible for her.

In the last 9 years, Saran has found acceptance and shares what helped her.

StrokeLine's health professionals provide information and advice on stroke treatment, prevention and recovery. It's free and confidential.
Phone 1800 787 653 or email strokeline@strokefoundation.org.au.
StrokeLine is available Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm, Australian Eastern Standard Time.

Lifeline provides crisis support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Visit lifeline.org.au

Stroke was one of several traumatic events that happened to me

Sue was living a full life. She was happily married, pregnant with her first child and training to be a nurse. However, she could sense that something wasn’t quite right. She’d had issues with her health and after visiting her GP her concerns were dismissed. And she was told this is just what comes with pregnancy.

Little did she know the events over the next month would change her life.

Sue opens about her stroke experience, from being dismissed by her doctor to near death altered states to learning to communicate again. As well as reflecting on what she learnt throughout her stroke experience and the importance of surrounding yourself with support

Sue talks about recognising and understanding a new way of being after her stroke and what other significant events had happened at that time.

This podcast discusses themes that may be distressing to some people, including historical sexual assault and the loss of a baby.

Listen to podcast with transcript

StrokeLine is available Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm, Australian Eastern Standard Time. Call 1800 787 653 or email strokeline@strokefoundation.org.au.  Lifeline is available for crisis support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call 13 11 14 or visit lifeline.org.au

Past medical history was not taken into account

Nichola says when her daughter, Beth, had a stroke the health professionals who assessed her did not look at Beth's life prior as a young person.

She says "I think the biggest gap that we noticed, and I've worked in youth mental health alot, was Beth and her past medical history was never really discussed. Beth had already been diagnosed with anxiety and depression. There wasn't a conversation about that. Even though they were giving her medication every day".

The biggest challenges were the hidden challenges with her mental health. And then huge anxiety after a life changing moment.

Watch Nichola's full story

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