Stroke survivors hit the driving range on the road to recovery - Tucson News Now

Stroke survivors hit the driving range on the road to recovery

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

For some Tucsonans the road to recovery leads to the links.

Its rehabilitation through golf for people who have had strokes.

If you wonder why a stroke survivor who has never played golf would want to take up the game, you might be missing the point.

We went out to the golf course to see what the "Saving Strokes" event is all about.

While golf techniques can help stroke survivors with focus, dexterity and balance, it's about a lot more than golf.

It's not how well you do. It's that you just DO.

It's about living.

Stroke survivors need physical rehabilitation, but the road to recovery means their minds have to be in the game too.

"When my strokes occurred it was--strokes kind of turn you inside out personally and your life upside down. Everything you knew of life has completely changed and now you're forced to have to live a new life, but with limitations," says two-time stroke survivor Michele Prince.

What Prince has found, and what she loves sharing with others, is that life may be different, but it's not over.

"That's the biggest thing is to get moving and get out and talk to people. Connect with your friends. Go out to lunch. Go places. Do things. But there is life. There is life after a stroke," says Prince.

Before they hit the range with local golf pros on Friday, stroke survivors and their caregivers heard from medical experts about the best ways to take care of themselves.

Stroke is the leading cause of long-term disability in the United States.

The experts say six months after a stroke a quarter of patients are depressed.

That can hinder their recovery.

And that's why we were golfing Friday.

"Getting people out of the house and recognizing what all the opportunities are that are available to make improvements is, I think, a great avenue for getting these patients as functional and recovered as they can possibly get," say Tucson Medical Center Neurologist Dr. David Teeple. "Say, hey look, you can get out. You can do things. There are assistive devices. Kind of introduce them to the world of opportunities that are still available to them."

There are all sorts of adaptive devices for people with disabilities.  Even for golf.

There's a golf cart with a swivel chair that Steve Romero used, instead of his wheelchair.

"If you're a stroke victim sometimes you have your good days. I've been looking forward to playing golf. Just to see how I could do. I haven't played golf in a long time," Romero says with a smile.

There's a thing called a chucker. It works like a golf club.

Roy Burt demonstrates the chucker he got from his therapist in Wisconsin when his therapist learned Burt had enjoyed golf before his stroke.

The chucker is a good tool, but a session like this golf outing works wonders too.

Burt says it's "the interaction with other people that have had strokes and sharing stories and just a lot of good positive encouragement." 

Burt says his positive attitude has helped him heal.

Turns out a beautiful day at the driving range goes a long way to help stroke survivors recognize and use their abilities.

"I wanted to come because I wanted to meet more people like me and then learn how to do something different," says Celeste O'Neil who had never golfed until now.

Michele Prince sums it up. "If there's a will and a desire, there's a way."

Dr. Teeple also wanted to be sure people know what the signs of a stroke are.

He says there can be sudden weakness and/or numbness on one side of your body.

He says there can be a sudden vision loss in one or both eyes.  Dr. Teeple says it's painless.

Also, Dr. Teeple says to watch for possible dizziness, such as the room spinning.

He says, if you have any of those symptoms, call 911 immediately.

He says time is critical.

The treatment must given in the first three hours following the stroke to be effective.

The "Saving Strokes-Rehabilitation Through Golf" program was put on by the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association.

Tucson Medical Center and HealthSouth were event sponsors.

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