Unless you’ve been through it yourself, it’s hard to understand just what stroke survivors are dealing with during recovery. That’s why one local stroke survivor is encouraging others to find support, like she did through Aurora BayCare Medical Center’s Survivor 2 Survivor program.

Green bay’s Natalie Alley enjoys some time to herself – getting lost in a good book or being creative with a knitting project, but she didn’t plan on being alone when she woke up last summer feeling dizzy, with a splitting headache.

“My husband had gone off to a conference in Indiana, so it was just me and the dog at home,” Alley recalled.

Alley had suffered a stroke.

“It turns out I’d had a vertebral artery dissection that led to a stroke,” she explained.

A new initiative at Aurora BayCare Medical Center is helping make sure no one is alone when it comes to dealing with a stroke.

“The stroke experience can be traumatic and lonely,” said Melisa Engebose.

Engebose manages Aurora BayCare Medical Center’s Survivor 2 Survivor stroke support program.

“It’s a peer support program for our stroke survivors and their caregivers,” Engebose explained. 

Run by volunteers who are stroke survivors themselves, Engebose says the program not only offers both in-person and virtual emotional support, but practical help with things like rides to appointments or getting medication.

“These volunteers can really make a difference, Engebose said. “They’re encouraging the stroke survivors to manage on their own and stay in their home environment while offering the support, guidance and tips for recovery that they may have experienced in their own recovery.”

For Alley, being connected with other stroke survivors has made a huge difference…

“Sharing our stories, sharing what’s been hard for us. It’s such a help,” she said.

…not only in her own recovery, but as a nurse, that of the stroke patients she cares for as well.

“To be able to share that experience,” Alley said. “Now I can say ‘hey, I’ve gone through a stroke myself.’ and immediately the walls come down and it’s so nice.”

If you’d like to find out if you’re at risk for having a stroke,

There is a quick and easy way to find out if you’re at risk for having a stroke, go to aurorabaycare.com/assessments to take an online stroke assessment.