The 92-year-old hospital volunteer continues to give back to stroke survivors and caregivers

Ann Bruen may be 92, but that doesn’t stop her from volunteering to support stroke survivors and caregivers at Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center.

When her late husband had a stroke in 1998 and was treated at a hospital out of town, Bruin felt she had received little support about what recovery and life would look like when they returned home.

I Didn’t Know About Stroke, What Do I Do With It? How do I treat it? How do I take care of him? “So little by little I had to learn, and I joined a stroke support group, which was very helpful,” she recalled. Since then I’ve been with stroke groups.”

Over time, she said, access to information for survivors and their caregivers has improved. More people are learning about strokes by helping organizations that promote awareness and by making reading materials more widely available.

Bruin’s husband has recovered but is partially paralyzed on his right side. She said giving up driving was the hardest part for him. He died eight years ago.

In the early years of his care, Bruin began giving back to others in need. Shy at first, she quickly realized that her service could provide “a little push in the future, to try and smooth the transition from stroke to post-stroke because they’re so shocked and disoriented, they don’t know what to do.”

She offers them some hope of the way forward and tells them that while things will change, some may get better with the help of their families.

Today, the group has 12 to 15 active members. Family members, often spouses, hear from Brewin’s caregivers about how to work with their patient, how important a “higher attitude” is, and how to find available resources. She said heart attack patients can often recover well and return to their daily lives, but stroke often affects much of the body. Therefore, it is important to provide post-stroke care and unite the whole family.

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The group evolved into the second Bruin family as they go on an arduous journey together. Sometimes just socializing instead of talking about medical issues really lifts their spirits.

Stroke support groups began forming in the Houston area in the 1970s, but Bruin explained that many of them have dispersed over time. Continuing to help people after a stroke, she said, is still essential. A patient suffering from aphasia after having a stroke attended the group with his wife and encouraged him to leave when he found other people like him struggling and struggling to get better.

Members who do not attend the meeting are lost and are welcomed back. They often get a phone call to check on them.

Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center has the only comprehensive stroke center on Houston’s West Side, Stroke Coordinator Teresa Sumners said. Therefore, the hospital can treat stroke patients who need a lot of support in the recovery period.

In addition to serving with the Stroke Support Group, Bruen began volunteering with the hospital’s neuroscience specialty units three or four years ago. She visits patients and family members two to three days after a stroke to provide further support and education. The work is rewarding, she said, as it allows patients to see someone with them who is already having a stroke.

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