Tom Rideout was mid conversation when he felt an intense pain in his head. The next thing he remembers experiencing was waking up in a Toronto hospital four weeks later and learning he had suffered a stroke. At the age of 46, he was unable to speak or move the right side of his body.

In the months that followed, Rideout found life to be unbearable. “I didn’t want to live because I felt useless,” he says, looking back 13 years. After suffering another stroke, he attempted suicide for a second time — this time saved by bystanders in the subway.  “They asked me what was wrong and I just broke down in tears.”

Rideout turned a corner when he was put in touch with Stroke Recovery Canada, a national service run through March of Dimes Canada offering support, education, and community programs for stroke survivors along with their family members and caregivers.

“I attended support group meetings, and as I got more involved I started spending more time laughing and less time crying.”

Rideout is just one of many stroke survivors who has found a new lease on life through March of Dimes Canada, one of the largest community-based service providers for people with physical disabilities in the country.

Since the 1980s, the organization has devoted growing amounts of resources to helping stroke survivors, a population that includes people of both genders and all ages. In fact, survivors of stroke comprise the highest percentage of people affiliated with March of Dimes Canada. With at least one Canadian suffering a stroke every 10 minutes — the incidence is higher in black and South Asian communities — there are about 400,000 survivors and that number is expected to grow due to Canada’s aging population.

“Our organization is not focused on finding a cure for stroke,” says president and CEO Andria Spindel. “We’re focused on providing support, care and education for survivors and the people close to them. We’re focused on improving the survivors’ quality of life. We would like to see them lead independent lives full of activity, engagement and meaning.”

To that end, the March of Dimes Canada runs the Aphasia and Communications Disabilities Program. Its mandate is to improve the quality of life for survivors with Aphasia — the loss of the ability to articulate ideas or understand language, resulting from brain damage caused by injury, stroke, or disease — through services and mutual aid groups. Speech-language pathologists play a key role in assessing and treating survivors’ communication and cognitive skills.

Among the many other services the organization provides is the Stroke Recovery Warmline. It connects survivors and their caregivers with various services and peer support groups, which organize local meetings, activities, and seminars providing practical and emotional support.

Fourteen years after contemplating suicide, Rideout is dedicated to helping other stroke survivors rediscover the joy in life through Peers Fostering Hope, a program in which survivors visit hospitals and support groups. “When I talk to other survivors, I urge them not to give up. I tell them there is life after stroke,” he says. “No one knows that better than me.”

Contact Information:

Stroke Recovery Canada Warmline: 1888 540 6666

Stroke Recovery Website:


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