Easy street: The road to recovery

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At age 42, Carole Laurin was in perfect health – or so she thought.

She ate well, exercised, didn’t smoke, visited her family doctor for annual check-ups and pretty much did everything by the book. But one evening the elementary teacher experienced sudden spasms on the left side of her body and couldn’t move her arms or legs. Laurin’s husband called 911.

In the emergency room she received the clot-busting drug Tissue Plasminogen Activator, which she credits with saving her life. That day, September 29, 2004, is forever etched in Laurin’s mind: the day she had a stroke.

“There were warning signs,” she says, “But I didn’t really know them. And thinking, I’m young, I’m healthy, I ignored them.” The stroke left her hemiplegic, or paralyzed on the left side of her body. “It was tough on my family,” she says frankly. “I couldn’t drive; I couldn’t do a lot of things.” Her 16-year-old son took it hard. And while her six -year-old daughter initially enjoyed treating mommy like a doll and applying make-up, the novelty soon wore off.

Her recovery journey can be recounted in increasing increments of two: two months in a hospital, four months in a wheelchair and six months walking with a cane. “At first I was just in survival mode,” she says matter-of-factly. “Then I began looking for an outpatient program with more than one treatment option.”

In January 2005, she went to Easy Street and never looked back. Easy Street, located at Misericordia Health Centre in Winnipeg, is a unique rehabilitation environment where patients practice independent living skills after a life-impacting health change.

Easy Street is literally a re-creation of a community street – within the walls of Misericordia – that includes a bank, a putting green, a car and gas pump, a restaurant, a grocery store, and much more.

For Laurin, the Easy Street ambulatory care program was a good fit.

“I feel so fortunate to be able to come here,” she says, practicing putting fruit into a grocery bag. “The knowledgeable therapists help me problem-solve the physical challenges I encounter on a daily basis.”

Misericordia’s Easy Street team takes a multi-disciplinary approach to assessment and treatment. Care is patient-centred, with patients setting their own goals. This method was a recipe for success for Laurin.

“I’d been told I’d probably never be able to use my left hand again,” she recalls. “With persistence and determination, the Easy Street staff helped me make it functional.” The Easy Street team works in partnership with patients to regain community living skills, increase independence and improve quality of life.

Through the Easy Street program, Laurin is seen by a physiotherapist and an occupational therapist. Her treatment also includes therapy sessions in the Misericordia pool. Laurin has also consulted with a social worker and a dietician. In addition, a speech and language clinician is available.

Laurin can’t heap enough praise on the Easy Street team, as she continues along her self-described long road to recovery: “If it wasn’t for the commitment of the staff at Easy Street, I wouldn’t be walking today or moving my hand.”