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A stroke survivor herself, Jennifer offers encouragement to other patients during their recovery.

Strength in Numbers

NCH offers a stroke support group called Brain Waves, which meets monthly at the 901 Kirchoff building on the NCH main campus. Learn more by calling 847.618.4YOU (4968), or simply register online.

Stroke Signals

NCH stroke patients find support from survivors

The triumphs and setbacks of stroke recovery can feel like a roller coaster. It helps to talk to someone who has been there.

A unique volunteer program at Northwest Community Healthcare (NCH) connects new stroke patients with fellow survivors who offer encouragement and a listening ear. Jennifer Benthaus is one of these volunteers. A frequent migraine sufferer, she was not especially alarmed when another crippling headache arrived one day in 2009.

Only this wasn't a headache.

In the prime of her life, Jennifer had experienced a ruptured aneurysm that bled onto her brain. "I didn't think a 38-year-old could get a stroke," says Jennifer, who experienced vision problems, walking difficulties, upper left arm paralysis, slowed speech and short-term memory loss. "She is now walking independently and is actively volunteering to help other stroke patients," says Sailaja Maramreddy, MD, an NCH neurologist who treated Jennifer after her stroke.

While Jennifer is still walking her own road to recovery—she regularly visits the NCH Outpatient Center in Rolling Meadows for speech, occupational and physical therapy—she encourages stroke survivors in their hospital rooms. "I always tell them that it gets better," she says. "It is a long road to recovery and it might be scary at first, but things do get better."

Lisa Stuckel, a 20-year stroke survivor, is a few years further along in her recovery. At age 51, she is also active in NCH's support program.

She talks with stroke patients about how stroke attacked her brain—but not her will. "I had this strength from within that I had to beat this," Lisa says, referencing the two strokes she suffered in her early 30s. "The positive attitude makes a huge difference in recovery."

Lisa went from being unable to walk to later running the Chicago Marathon. "I will visit patients in their rooms and tell them, 'If I can make it, so can you.'"

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Last Updated 04/10/2009