Faces of stroke recovery

These courageous Canadians are putting stroke behind them
Joan Lee

Joan Lee worked 18-hour days as a French pastry chef before her stroke at 54.

Stroke can happen at any age. And half of stroke survivors need help with basic daily activities. The 2017 Stroke Report charts their common challenges and triumphs.  


Nolen, age 7

Nolen, age 8 

Prenatal stroke

Biggest accomplishments: Learning to walk, speak and perform simple math.

Current goals: Improving his reading and working to master a heel-toe gait with his right foot.

“I love watching Nolen partake in simple activities that I thought would never be possible when he was first diagnosed — singing in a choir, reading a book, or even walking towards me as I enter the house.” – Nolen’s mother, Laura Lenz

Paige, age 7

Paige, age 7
                                                         Photo credit:  Diane + Mike Photography

Stroke at birth

Biggest accomplishment: Skating for the first time last winter.

Current goals: Improving her fine motor skills and muscle tone on her right side, working three hours a week with her aide, Carleigh; plus doing yoga, dance and swimming to help her mobility.

“Paige is in grade one and has made many wonderful friends. Some have become her greatest helpers too. She has an aide at school for helping with certain tasks that she still finds challenging, but she is getting more confident and independent week after week.” – Paige’s mother, Andrea Bradley

Jenny Jay

Jenny, age 19 

Stroke at age: 19

Biggest accomplishment: Regaining enough strength on her left side to climb the highest peaks in England, Wales and Scotland. 

Current goal: To climb Mount Athabasca.

“My recovery has been a journey that’s parallel with gratitude. I was lucky because physically, my recovery was quick. It was different from a lot of other people who have experienced the same thing. For that reason I sometimes feel a little guilty talking about my stroke. There’s no doubt that it’s changed the way I think. It’s a part of my history. “

Geneviève Morel

Geneviève, age 26  

Stroke at age: 26

Biggest accomplishment: Giving birth to a healthy baby after having a stroke during her pregnancy.

Current goal: Working to regain 100% of her cognitive capacity and the physical abilities on her left side, with physical activity, healthy eating and above all, perseverance.

“I try to turn threats into opportunities — to find advantages in every difficulty. When I’m faced with challenges I look for the positive, not the limitations.”

Angela Wright

Angela, age 38 

Stroke at age: 38 

Biggest accomplishment: Taking a four-month trip trekking in Nepal and India despite weakness on her left side, just two years after doctors said she would never again walk, work or live independently.

Current goals: Regaining full fine motor skills in her left hand; upgrading her MBA with online courses in leadership and strategic management.

“I really feel there is nothing out there to help younger stroke survivors. For many of us, it feels like every step (in stroke recovery) is the first step. I hope by sharing my story I can help other young stroke survivors.”

Richard Wilson

Richard, age 43 

Stroke at age: 43

Biggest accomplishments: Completing an online chef course and volunteering at his local daycare and as a documentary videographer, despite challenges with communication, vision and walking.

Current goal: Leading the eight-week Heart & Stroke Living with Stroke program in Prince Rupert, BC, for the second time.

“It was really hard finding people that we could talk to who were going through the same things we were. So leading the Living with Stroke program was great for Richard. And it really built on his strengths.” – Sharlene Wilson, Richard’s wife

Hasnain Mawji

Hasnain, age 44

Stroke at age: 44

Biggest accomplishment: Completing a 5 km walk last year called Strides for Stroke. Even though the last lap felt impossible, he persevered and is ready to do it again this year.

Current goal: To keep improving his speech and writing, and continue volunteering at the Mackenzie Health stroke unit in Richmond Hill, Ont., helping other stroke survivors.

“Every night in the stroke unit, I lay there trying to move my toes. After 4½ weeks, they finally started moving. You have to work at recovering because it’s the only way you’ll get better. The next day you have to do a little more than the day before.” 


Joan Lee

Joan, age 54 

Stroke at age: 54

Biggest accomplishment: Coming out of a two-month coma.

Current goal: To stay active, reduce stress through regular tai chi and spend time with her family.

"Before my stroke and grand mal seizure I was a workaholic. As a French pastry chef it was normal for me to work 18 hour days. My point of view has changed since spending 7 1/2 months recovering in hospital. I've had a heart valve transplant and am undergoing dialysis. But I treasure my health more than I did before. I feel I've been given a second chance." 


Jim Steel

Jim, age 78 

Stroke at age: 78

Biggest accomplishment: Living the same life he and his wife Margaret had before his stroke, despite aphasia that challenges his ability to communicate.

Current goal: To continue expanding the Calgary Aphasia Centre, which the Steels co-founded, to provide services for everyone who needs a helping hand.

“When you have aphasia, it’s important to do the little everyday things like chat about the news. If you don’t, you can easily fall into isolation or lose the ability to speak. The less you speak, the less you can speak.” – Margaret Steel, Jim’s wife