Valerie Greene, (l), with “Ana,” (center) at Hive of Hope meeting.
WINTER PARK— At an early spring Bcenter Hive of Hope support group meeting at the Winter Park Civic Center in Central Florida, cheers erupted when “Ana,” a formerly wheelchair-confined stroke survivor in her forties, made an entrance with her caregiver father, using only a cane to join more than 40 fellow survivors and their caregivers.
“I was moved to tears,” said Nancy DeVault, a community healthcare advocate from Winter Garden. “The whole room applauded her; it was incredible!”
Valerie Greene, founder of Bcenter based in Orlando, said it speaks volumes “when others are cheering you on. I get chills just thinking about it.”
The close-knit support and social group meets every third Monday of the month for a lecture, roundtable chatter and complimentary lunch and dessert. Recent topics have covered laughter in healing, art therapy at the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens, and energy medicine.
“This group is different than others that I've experienced as it’s so positive,” said DeVault. “Participants are uplifted, empowered with useful knowledge, and encouraged to engage with one another. Even just meeting in a beautiful setting, in comparison to a meeting room at the hospital … not a fun place for survivors … makes such a difference.”
Greene, a stroke coach and crusader for stroke advocacy, programs and education worldwide, established Bcenter as a simple website in 2010, knitted with tidbits of information she believed would be helpful to recovering stroke victims such as herself. “I was starving for snippets of support,” she recalled. “It wasn’t easy to find.” (See companion article, “The Rock Star of Stroke,” in this edition of Orlando Medical News.)
Bcenter provides stroke survivors and their caregivers with treatment resources, hope and direction. Its mission: to educate, empower and light the path to recovery.
“With Bcenter, and now Global Stroke Resource, Valerie helps doctors answer the question, ‘now what?’ that stroke survivors often ask when they’re released from the hospital,” said DeVault. “Physicians understand that stroke patients need continual support. Bcenter is a valuable tool for physicians to know about and, in turn, share with their patients.”
Greene named the resource center to embrace the symbolism of a bee, the metaphoric pillar of recovery. Bees aren’t designed to fly, noted Greene, but they do, therefore reinforcing how a belief in recovery from a stroke starts with the belief that you can and will recover, despite the odds.
In May, Greene launched a more user-friendly, interactive website that may be easily translated into any language and viewed on any device. Described as a “GPS for stroke survivors,” the website’s easy navigation provides three primary functions:
- Resources: B-well includes an outline of 20 conventional and holistic therapy choices, such as hyperbaric oxygen, stem cell and speech therapy.
- Hope: B-empowered provides motivational resources, including survivor testimonials, educational videos and uplifting books.
- Direction: B-connected offers interactive access to experts and the opportunity to participate in forums.
“My story has been somewhat supernatural,” admitted Greene, who suffered a brain stem stroke June 10, 1996. “In hindsight, I believe I was sent as a messenger to help the suffering of my fellow survivors. I’ve been in that valley and know the depths of despair. It’s a gift and an honor to help another person. It’s what drives me every morning. It’s so important for survivors to have someone lead them who’s been through this experience.”
Greene recalled having “an uneasy time” after being released from the hospital after her stroke. When she asked her doctor about recovery and rehabilitation, he didn’t have much to offer.
“Now physicians can say, ‘Bcenter is where you go after your stroke,’” said Greene, noting the physician community has embraced the center. “They know the support group is phenomenal. As are the activities. As their leader, I address the real gritty day-to-day challenges to the human spirit, and provide encouragement and empowerment. They learn their life isn’t over.”
Greene is quick to tell stroke survivors the candid truth: “Yes, it’s tough. Yes, there are bad days. But we’ll get to the other side. I’m living proof, and so are many others. We’re in this together.”
Greene noted that national statistics show a spike in strokes in younger adults, especially women under 40.
“It’s scary how more young people are having strokes,” she said. “When I had mine at the age of 31, it was unusual. These days, not so much. That’s why I focus on stroke prevention. I wouldn’t of had a second stroke six months later if I’d known what I do today.”
For example, the South is also known as the Stroke Belt for its fried and sticky foods.
“Stickiness only adds to the problem of platelets sticking together,” she said. “If you don’t have oil in your car, that necessary slippery element, the pistons don’t function properly and the engine will blow. Fortunately, our body was designed to heal.”
Greene also highlights the importance of krill oil, a cold water source in the Arctic that keeps the blood “nice and slippery.”
Greene also pointed out that all ages and genders of stroke survivors and their caregivers access Bcenter.
“It’s interesting to find out what works for one survivor and not another,” said Greene. “It’s not cliquish, but it’s interesting to see how survivors flock to groups with people of their gender, age or interests. The important thing is, we’re all there for each other.”
Bcenter video (30 second): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtzMXu-wXN4
Bcenter video (2 minutes): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8rJSAtq3Zs
American Heart Association: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/
American Stroke Association: http://www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/
National Stroke Association: http://www.stroke.org/
Power to End Stroke: http://powertoendstroke.org/