For 36-year-old Anna Bauer-Ross, the possibility of having a stroke was the last thing on her mind while enjoying a vacation with her kids in the Bahamas in March 2008. “We were having a good time when suddenly I felt extreme pain on one side of my head, lost function on one side of my body and fell to the ground,” she describes. “I thought I was dying or having a heart-attack.”

Bauer-Ross was transported to a hospital in Nassau, the main island in the Bahamas, but doctors had difficulty figuring out what was wrong. “Doctors didn’t diagnose me with a stroke until about four days later because I just didn’t fit the profile of a stroke victim. I was too young.”

Upon her return to Canada, Bauer-Ross was hospitalized for a month and underwent six weeks of rehab. Her vocal cords were paralyzed from the stroke and she had difficulty walking but she worked very hard to regain both her ability to speak and walk.

March of Dimes Canada, a national full-service organization that offers a wide variety of programs to Canadians living with disabilities, conducted a presentation about their stroke recovery services at Bauer-Ross’ rehab hospital, it wasn’t until about a year later that she decided she was ready to reach out for help.

Much-needed helping hands

Bauer-Ross joined March of Dimes Canada’s Toronto Central Chapter Stroke Recovery support group. “The group was wonderful and there was a nice sense of community. I started going to regular monthly meetings and became more and more involved with the group. Soon, I was editing their newsletter and later became a leader,” she explains.  “March of Dimes Canada’s stroke support group gave me a sense of purpose and responsibility. It was something I needed because, due to my stroke, I wasn’t going back to the job I had before, so I just needed a new focus and new responsibilities and the group gave me that. It was perfect for me.”

The March of Dimes Canada support group significantly altered the course of Bauer-Ross’ life and put her on the path to a new career where she hopes to help others with disabilities. “Deciding to go back to school and pursue a new career was a natural extension of my work with the group. March of Dimes Canada runs a program called Peers Fostering Hope. It was a training program for peer support leaders and I was in the first group that became trained. I went to stroke units to offer support to people who had been through what I had. That led me to go back to school. I did some counselling courses, then studied applied behaviour analysis and now I am doing an undergrad degree in Disability Studies.”

Andria Spindel, March of Dimes Canada’s President and CEO, adds that their stroke recovery services are focused on providing support, care and education for stroke survivors and the people close to them. “We’re focused on improving the stroke survivor’s quality of life, and preventing a secondary stroke,” she says.

Though it’s been a decade since her stroke, Bauer-Ross’ connection to March of Dimes Canada remains strong. “I will always be grateful to March of Dimes Canada and impressed by everything they do. They really have a finger in all aspects of helping someone with a disability get back on their feet.”

March of Dimes Canada also has an Acquired Brain Injury Program which provides individualized support with activities of daily living, community orientation and recreation. These programs help clients to acquire new skills and develop strategies for community integration.