My name is Holly Dykema, on October 12, 2006 my life suddenly changed forever. It was on this day that my husband, Richard, had a massive stroke at the age of 50. Hours slipped by as he completed the work day not realizing that his headache and blurred vision were indicators of what was happening inside his brain. We were lucky that we were at home together when Richard fell to the floor that evening exhibiting the classic stroke symptoms of facial weakness, difficulty talking, and sudden unexplained loss of balance. I immediately called 911 and Richard was promptly taken to a stroke certified hospital by the paramedics.
This physically active and intelligent man was now bound to a wheelchair and his vocabulary was reduced to less than 10 words. Our conversations turned into silence. Our traveling adventures to the mountains, national forests and desert came to an end. For financial reasons I returned to work after a 6-month leave. I had to learn how to juggle the responsibilities of my job along with my new responsibilities as caregiver to my husband and having full ownership of managing our household.
The effects on both of us were heart-wrenching, exhausting and many times frustrating. The support and programs offered by the Peninsula Stroke Association (PSA), a local California organization, were a big help to me. This organization provided me with local resources for stroke survivors, a calendar of the upcoming support groups each month, and a wonderful Caregiver Retreat where I was able to take a day off from my new job as caregiver to recharge my batteries.
Since that night I’ve been on a new journey as caregiver for my young husband. I’ve become passionate about helping others who have experienced the devastating aftermath of stroke. Unlike a heart attack, stroke can impact the survivor in extreme ways for the rest of their life and can have a significant effect on the lives of their loved ones.
When we decided to move to Florida I began searching for an organization similar to the one that helped me in California. I found there was none. With the guidance and mentoring of PSA, I have decided along with my sister, Kim, to create the Stroke Association of Florida in the Sarasota area so that we can provide our community the services I so greatly appreciated and needed in California.
I hope you will find the Stroke Association of Florida a valuable avenue of support if your life has already been touched by stroke. For those who have not been impacted by stroke I hope we can help reduce the occurrence and devastating impact by educating our community about the risk factors and symptoms. Knowing your risk and controlling what you can is the best defense against having a stroke.