It was easy to feel a little bit abandoned, Tracy Dryoel said, after she suffered a stroke during 2007 that resulted in her being paralyzed on the left side.

“You feel so alone,” the 51-year-old Rock Island woman said. But Dryoel learned last year about the Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp, which is coordinated in the Quad-City area by Trinity Rehabilitation Services and includes the Trinity Health Foundation among its almost 20 sponsors.

Dryoel chose to attend the camp with her caregiver and found it such a pleasant experience that she’s going back this year. “When you go there, we all have the same thing,” she said.

Trinity’s camp is held at Camp Menno Haven in Tiskilwa, Ill., which is about 75 miles east of the Quad-Cities and not far off Interstate 80. It’s an accessible facility, said camp coordinator Kristin Schriefer, a speech language pathologist for Trinity Regional Health System.

“When someone suffers a stroke, it impacts the whole family,” she said. “Often, survivors and caregivers become isolated from their family and friends because they no longer can keep pace with others. But coming together in this type of setting, it helps them to realize they are not alone in their recovery.”

Schriefer, who often works with stroke survivors, said the camp setting is a benefit, as is the time spent with other campers.

“Just being there and observing others in that setting … it’s very encouraging because you see others do some things, and then you think maybe you can do some new things by yourself.”

Filling a gap

The Trinity foundation began sponsoring Stroke Camp in 2010. It is open to all stroke survivors, and participants each pay $100 for a three-day weekend there.

Foundation officials saw a need for the specialized summer program. “There was a gap that existed in the post-hospital care for stroke patients and their caregivers,” said Berlinda Tyler-Jamison, the president of the foundation.

The camp, she said, fills any gaps in terms of respite, recreational, social and educational services, all through one common experience.

Ten stroke patients and their caregivers attended the first camp in 2010; this year, 14 have signed up so far. People can register right up to the August date of the camp’s start, Schriefer said.

The idea of a peaceful, beatific setting for the user-friendly gathering caught the interest of Cheri Dunn, 37, of East Moline. She suffered a stroke that affected her entire right side, and it’s taken two years of speech therapy to regain her verbal skills.

She’ll be one of the new campers this year. Dunn, a parent and employee of the Black Hawk Area Special Education District, is interested in the camp because of its promised downtime and the chance to relax.

Popular activities

Dryoel had a great time riding a paddleboat with another patient last summer. She has paralysis on her left side and he did on the right side. They figured out how to team up and propel the boat. “It was a lot of fun,” she said.

She also liked the chance to swim, and to do arts and crafts projects. Some of the entertainment was a diversion as well: Last year’s theme was “Rock Around the Clock,” and an Elvis impersonator made a surprise appearance.

A lot of free time is included in the three-day camp, Schriefer said. Some campers like to nap or rest while others might read by the lake or fish.

“I did a lot of reading,” Dryoel said.

No certain abilities

All stroke survivors are welcome at the camp, and the activities are geared to meet individual needs, Schriefer explained. Some campers use wheelchairs, while some others can walk a little on their own. The camp’s 20-plus volunteers use golf carts to transport campers from place to place and over uneven ground.

All rooms are handicapped-accessible and have private baths and showers. Those who need a walk-in shower can be accommodated, too.

The 2011 campers are looking forward to it. “It’s going to be a blast,” Dryoel said.

Volunteers also anticipate that start of the camp, Schriefer said. Normally, nurses and therapists see patients in a hospital setting and might not always understand what their home life entails.

“It’s important to us to see the big picture of what life is going to be like for these survivors,” she said. “I know all the volunteers can’t say enough about the campers!”


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