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Home > Giving > Your Gifts at Work > Why We Give > Finding Healing Through Camaraderie
Five years ago, Mary Lorenz was washing up after gardening and thought it was strange that her husband, Marv, wasn’t answering her. Suddenly, she recognized classic signs of stroke and they raced 35 miles to Mercy Medical Center from their rural Eastern Iowa home.
That same summer, Robert Julson was having a hard time prioritizing his work and found himself quickly moving from being the “go-to” in the office to “the person people ran from,” as he describes it. That fall, he was diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment and never returned to work.
Two different stories and experiences. What connects them is the Retreat and Refresh Stroke Camp. Funded by Mercy Medical Center since its inception 11 years ago, it’s a two-day retreat for stroke survivors and their caregivers.
“People’s lives change so much after a stroke,” says Jennifer Austin MSN, RN Clinical Specialist. “Recovering from a stroke isn’t over when you’re discharged from the hospital. It’s isolating and that’s why this camp is so important for our patients.”
The Lorenzes agree. “Marv can still do what he did before, it’s just different. The people at the camp understand that,” adds Mary.
The Retreat and Refresh Stroke Camp is the only one of its kind held in Iowa and the majority of patients are from Mercy Medical Center and eastern Iowa. Donations to the Foundation that are not directed for a specific use help fund half the cost of the camp each year. Campers are asked to pay a reasonable fee to attend.
“It would be cost prohibitive for me to go if the Foundation didn’t help out,” says Julson. “I can’t put into words what it means to me. Without it, I don’t know where I’d be.”
Breakout sessions, arts and crafts, and group music activities allow care givers and survivors to learn about specific stroke issues. Both Julson and the Lorenz believe it’s the extra support for the caregivers that makes the difference.
“My diagnosis has impacted my family. My wife and one daughter are my care partners. Stroke Camp is the only time they get the focus and don’t have to worry about me. It’s the only break they get,” says Julson.
Both Lorenz and Julson say the encouragement and inspiration from other campers brings them back. “A lot of physical progress isn’t always where the biggest changes are. Many times, it’s people’s attitudes and how they decided to move forward in life that’s the most inspiring to us,” said Mary Lorenz.
Mercy’s Stroke Support Group keeps the campers connected with other stroke survivors and caregivers when they aren’t at camp.
“It would be so isolating if I didn’t have the Stroke Survivor’s Group in between the Stroke Camp,” says Julson who was diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment four years ago. “It keeps me connected with ‘my people.’”
The Stroke Survivor’s Group meets every other month at Mercy Medical Center and takes a deeper dive into topics covered during the Stroke Camp by incorporating an educational component with an activity at each meeting.
“It’s encouraging to keep going to the Support Group. They’re your cheering squad. They know how long it takes to achieve goals,” adds Marv’s wife, Mary Lorenz.