Outdoor activities, music therapy sessions, educational lectures and a chance to reflect on personal experiences brought together more than 50 stroke survivors, caregivers and volunteers for the second annual Retreat and Refresh Stroke Camp at the Warren Conference Center in Ashland earlier this summer.
The three-day weekend retreat, which ran from June 24 to June 26, provides an outlet for relaxation and fun for stroke survivors and their caregivers and offers ample opportunities for participants to engage in various activities that suit their interests.
This year’s event was sponsored by BWH’s Neurosurgery and Neurology departments, Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital, South Shore Hospital, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and the medical technology company Medtronic. Representatives from each organization attended the camp.
“It’s a weekend away to help those who have experienced a stroke get a break from feeling like a ‘stroke patient,’” said Mary Amatangelo, MS, RN, ACNP-BC, CCRN, CNRN, SCRN, a nurse practitioner in the Neuroscience ICU, who leads the initiative.
In addition to Amatangelo, BWH attendees included M. Ali Aziz-Sultan, MD, of Neurosurgery; Steven Feske, MD, of Neurology; Pat Kelly, RN, of the Neuroscience ICU; Tim Lynch, executive director in Neurology; Simone Renault, clinical research coordinator in Neurology; Henri Vaitkevicius, MD, of Neurology; and Ling Zhang, LICSW, of the Neuroscience ICU.
Volunteers described the experience for their patients as an important step on their road to recovery.
“Even after medical therapies are complete, strokes continue to affect patients’ lives,” Amatangelo said. “We take care of critically ill patients on a regular basis, and to see patients through the entire continuum—including the recovery process—is an incredible opportunity for their care teams.”
Brigham patient and stroke survivor Ralph “Soupy” Campbell, of Rockland, went to the camp. Following a stroke on February 2014, Campbell felt he received proactive, expert care from the moment he arrived at BWH.
Describing the whole experience as “beautiful and emotional,” Campbell credits his girlfriend and caregiver, Nancy Daignault, as being supportive throughout the retreat.
“Support is an important part of the process, and she stayed right there with me through it all,” said Campbell.
Daignault, who attended the camp as well, said that she found the group meetings helpful in that she was able to share similar experiences with other caregivers. “Everyone involved with the camp treated us well,” she said.
Campbell recounted a special moment from the retreat when other stroke survivors who previously had limited mobility were able to dance with their spouses for the first time in a decade, thanks to the ongoing treatment and support they received.
“On a scale of one to 10, I rate the experience a 15. I would go again in a flash,” Campbell said.