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A journey of resilience and recovery in stroke rehabilitation

A stroke can happen to anyone, at any age.

On April 15, 2021, Ailsa Desender, a first-grade teacher, was looking forward to the upcoming lunch break as she had a headache and, at 24 weeks pregnant, she felt like a rest over the break would help her to feel better.

Once in the break room, it became obvious that something bigger was happening to Ailsa – and her coworker immediately called 911. At only 31, Ailsa was having a stroke.

Fear began to set in, and Ailsa’s first thought was for the safety of her unborn baby.

Ailsa spent a week at HSC Winnipeg while doctors assessed the impacts of her stroke and monitored her baby to understand how the stroke may have impacted her child inside the womb.

The stroke’s impact on Ailsa’s body was significant, targeting her balance, coordination, and dominant side, and she began to wonder how she was going to care for a newborn once her daughter arrived.

After a week in hospital, Ailsa was transferred to Riverview Health Centre (RHC) to begin her rehabilitation. RHC is home to the only inpatient stroke rehabilitation program in the Province. Using a multidisciplinary team approach to rehabilitation staff support all aspects of an individual’s recovery.

When Ailsa arrived, she couldn’t walk or write, and her speech was slurred. As she rolled in the front doors of Riverview, she questioned how she was ever going to be the mom that she always wanted to be in 14 short weeks.

Ailsa’s care team at RHC worked with her to determine what her goals were and helped to provide support to her on many levels. “The coordination was amazing; I could see the power of having experts come together to develop a plan tailored to my needs. They were excellent listeners, letting me set my own goals but then also pushing me when I was feeling defeated,” said Ailsa.

Ailsa remembers that her time at Riverview was “very focused on thriving and recovery. The dedicated staff provided an outline for my recovery and were able to explain to me why my body was doing what it was doing. Everyone was focused on ensuring I could care for my baby when she arrived.”

Because of donors like you, the Rehabilitation team at Riverview Health Centre has the tools they need to provide exceptional care to patients like Ailsa.

What an incredible gift – thank you!

Ailsa went home three weeks after coming to Riverview stronger, more independent in self-care and with the tools to continue her progress at home. She understood what she needed and could advocate for herself.

She continued to work hard, and being able to take care of her daughter was an incredible motivator.

Ailsa’s daughter, Lena, arrived safe and sound on July 23, 2021. She is the picture of health, hitting all her development milestones. Ailsa refers to Lena as a stroke survivor as well, and is thankful her daughter has no lasting impacts.

Ailsa is now back to work full-time as a Student Services teacher, helping kids who need a little extra help to be successful, just like she needed when she arrived at Riverview back in 2021. Ailsa and her husband are also looking forward to the arrival of another child in March 2024, and have their fingers crossed that this pregnancy is much less eventful than the last one!

Donors like you help to ensure that patients like Ailsa have an enriching experience at Riverview through the support of equipment, programs, and activities that help to rebuild the body and mind.