"Listen to your body" - Advice from Evelyn Rich, local stroke survivor
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Quick action and an awareness of the wellbeing of your body can lead to positive lasting results if you suffer a stroke. That is how Evelyn Rich of Belgrave was able to survive a stroke and now thrive in her day-to-day life just under two years after her life changed forever.
Since she was a little girl, Rich knew she wanted to be a nurse. She broke her arm when she was 11, and attending the hospital and being cared for by the local nurses and doctors created a tremendous appreciation for those in health care. She also notes that decades ago, employment options were largely limited for women, saying most of the women of her generation were either nurses, teachers or secretaries.
She would then study with that career in mind, eventually working as a nurse for 15 years at the Wingham and District Hospital and then for another 30 years with One Care.
Two years ago, on March 1, 2018, after Rich had retired, she was returning home after grocery shopping when she says she just didn’t feel right.
The first symptom she recognized, after a career as a nurse, was that she was having trouble walking. In an interview with The Citizen, Rich said she almost felt as though she was drunk, so she went to her couch to sit down and gather herself in the hopes that whatever was happening to her would pass.
She then made a phone call and felt that she could notice the beginning of her slurring her speech and having trouble moving her tongue well enough to enunciate her words properly.
Rich said she would eventually hang up the phone – which is not advisable in case of emergency – and, after a few more minutes, she decided something was really wrong and she needed help.
After trying four or five times, Rich successfully dialed 9-1-1 and help was on the way, arriving in under 10 minutes.
The trip, which Rich remembers well, went from London to Stratford after she was diagnosed with a bleed in the middle of her brain. Due to its location, she was moved from London to Stratford, which was better equipped to handle her.
Because of her quick thinking and willingness to ask for help and recognize that things simply weren’t right with her body, Rich had a speedy recovery, with much of her pre-stroke functionality returning after just three days.
She continued her rehabilitation work for another week and a half and near the tail end of the process, Rich was being trusted to administer her own medicine, as she was quickly returning to her pre-stroke self.
Even now, Rich says, she is pretty much as she was before she suffered a stroke, though she will catch herself the odd time tripping over a word she’s trying to say or forgetting a train of thought. Those incidents, however, are few and far between, she said.
As for medical advice, Rich said the best thing she can pass on is to listen to what your body is telling you. If you’re in doubt about symptoms you’re feeling, call 9-1-1-, she said, adding that it “doesn’t hurt” to call for help if you think you need it.
Having said that, Rich added that her doctors did tell her that, in addition to acting fast, she was also lucky in her recovery.
As someone who has been painting her whole life, Rich has just concluded her most recent project, which was hand-painted Christmas cards for her friends and family members.
Rich says she has been painting as a hobby for over 25 years, but in recent years, she only has the energy to do it once a year, so she does it around the holidays.
Suffering a stroke two years ago, however, has not slowed Rich down. She has continued to send out these special cards to her friends and family members.
This year, she said, she created 80 and only had two left.
Many of her favourite pieces over the years have been of birds, as she often tries to paint winter scenes, rather than anything too Christmasy. However, another of her favourites is one of Santa Claus and a small dog, with a farmhouse in the background in a frozen farm landscape.
For more information on the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, visit heartandstroke.ca.