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Kerry Stroke Service goes virtual to support patients

Kerry Stroke Support Group was set up in 2009 as an initiative of the Tralee Primary Care Team to support stroke survivors in Co Kerry.   Mary Carmody, Chairperson Stroke Group explains that when her then 54 year old husband had a stroke in 2006, he was “a very unlikely candidate to have a stroke.  He was very fit, healthy, running marathons all over the world.  When he was released from hospital, we experienced great loneliness – there was nowhere to turn. And so that was when, three years later,  we set up the Kerry Support Group - a peer led support group, supported by a HSE Community Worker.”

 Community Development

Dolores McElligot, Community Health Worker, HSE Cork Kerry Community Healthcare, explains that it was  “the kernel of the community development work that had been done by the HSE for many years – the development of Community Day Care Centres around the county that we could use to develop this unique service.  It was a national pilot, but what was particularly significant was that it was a community led partnership.  It was community and needs led.”

For Noreen and Frank Hickey, clients of the Kerry Stroke Support Group at Baile Mhuire Day Centre the service and centre offered sense of a shared experience: “When we arrived here – it was so re assuring -  just seeing others who looked like Frank, walked like Frank and who had the same difficulties as Frank – we weren’t on our own.  We suddenly realised there is a whole community here that we knew nothing about.”

 Adapted

However, when the pandemic arrived last year, it obviously had an immediate impact on patients and families.  Eibhlis Cahalane,  Physiotherapist Services for Older People,  Cork Kerry Community Healthcare explained that they had to adjust their Stroke Day Service: “We obviously couldn’t bring our people into our centres so we had to figure out what we could do virtually.  That was a challenge for all of us – there were challenges for us in coming to terms with technology.  It was a steep learning curve both personally and for the team.  And of course there were challenges too for the clients – whether they would have the technology and  their level of access.  As a physiotherapist I am responsible for leading out on the physical exercise programme.  We had to figure out how we could translate what we had face to face  - which was a very challenging exercise programme - into a virtual model and maintain the quality and safey elements.  But we started and we have been very successful over the last year – we have adapted and we have surpassed all expectations with what we have been able to achieve virtually.”