It takes teamwork to beat stroke
Chuck and Lorraine share a bond that’s stronger than ever as they face stroke together
Chuck Ley didn’t feel well that morning back in 2016. In fact, he felt so strange he left work around noon. When he got home, he collapsed in the bedroom.
That’s where his wife, Lorraine Joynt, found him when she got home from work at 5 p.m. He was lying on the floor between the bed and the wall.
Lorraine called 9-1-1 and managed to stay calm until paramedics were putting Chuck into the ambulance in their driveway. As concerned neighbours gathered, she started to cry.
At the hospital, doctors confirmed Chuck had a stroke. In just a few hours, it had affected his ability to speak, swallow and walk.
Thanks to stroke rehabilitation and physiotherapy, plus the unwavering support of his wife and five children, Chuck can now walk short distances. Lorraine pushes him in a wheelchair for longer outings. That’s how they participated on the walking course of Heart & Stroke Ride for Heart, with Chuck standing up to walk over the finish line by himself.
Chuck speaks slowly and softly, but Lorraine makes sure that when he does speak, people listen. Chuck did not return to his job, as a manager at a Canadian Tire store in Oshawa, Ont.
Talking to Chuck and Lorraine, there’s a lot of affectionate laughter between them. It’s clear they are a team. And teamwork may be their secret weapon to beat the devastating effects of stroke.
What were those weeks like in the hospital?
Chuck: For the longest time, I didn’t know what was happening. I was frustrated, trying to say something and then forgetting.
Lorraine: I was there every day. I would drop in for a few minutes before I went to work and then I would come by after work to make sure he ate his dinner. He couldn’t chew, he could barely speak. The kids were there frequently, bringing pictures of the grandchildren to help him remember, but he just couldn’t. He would call everybody by different names — and on occasion still does!
What was the biggest challenge in rehabilitation?
Chuck: Walking. I approached it with the idea that if I can’t do it, I can’t do it. But I’m going to try. Now, I can walk a little, and have learned to get around that by using a wheelchair sometimes.
Lorraine: He worked really hard with physiotherapy so he could get up and down and out of his wheelchair and also take a few steps. He can get into bed and the car. That’s what’s saved us. His perseverance and being able to do that — it’s kept us going. And before the pandemic, we were able to keep travelling — to Florida and Cape Breton. We even took a cruise to Alaska.
Chuck can walk short distances but Lorraine pushes him in a wheelchair for longer outings.
Chuck and Lorraine worked as a team to get through the stroke recovery process.
Chuck and Lorraine with their family at Heart & Stroke Ride for Heart in 2018.
How has your family supported your stroke recovery?
Chuck: The children and grandchildren all find ways to keep my spirits up when things are tough. It is not unusual for them to come over with dinner, help with chores around the house or phone just to chat.
My daughter Heather is my elf at Christmas and is also there when I need to do shopping to surprise Lorraine. Mike and Mark helped clean out the garage and are always there to do repairs around the house. The little ones come with their crafts and tales of how school is going. The important thing is I always know they’re behind me 100%.
What’s a challenge now?
Chuck: I still get frustrated by the things I can’t do. I often think: if only I could walk, if I only I could do this. Also, people don’t talk directly to me. I’ll be sitting right there. They treat me like I’m a dummy, but I’m far from a dummy.
Lorraine: I dislike it when people ignore Chuck and talk to me instead. I’ll say, “I don’t know, ask him,” and walk away. People who treat Chuck differently have little understanding of how much this hurts him.
Has the stroke changed your relationship?
Lorraine: I don’t think so. The only thing that’s changed is I’m doing the driving instead of him. And he does a lot around the house: he keeps my kitchen very clean. We had a strong relationship to start off.
Chuck: Finding Lor is probably the best thing that ever happened to me. If your wife believes in you, then you can do it. My wife has really and truly kept me going.
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