What would you do, if it were you?

Column 111


The birds are just starting their spring tweets. The air is warm off the waters of Lake Ontario. Jean Cadue opens her eyes to greet another morning. She is 40 years old. She lives in Gananoque with her eight year old son. She’s lived in “Gan” her whole life. Jean’s business, a photographic reproduction and custom framing store complement the skills of her photographer husband.

Life is good.

Jean stretched her legs over the side of the bed and pulled to a stand. She fell. She pulled herself to stand and fell again.

Jean had had a stroke in the night. She spoke, full words and sentences in her head but garbled nonsense to the ears of her husband and child.

Eventually she was released from hospital to a stroke recovery group, mostly much older men. She couldn’t relate and she couldn’t recover. Determined, undaunted, relentless Jean turned to the computer. She played solitaire… terrific for her concentration and matching skills. She used Match3 games on www.lumosity.com.

She began to sculpt clay at a craft shop, moving from large objects which used her hands to little figurines as she regained the use of her fingers. She began to write as she recovered. Jean says her fourth tool in her recovery was The Bible.

Learning to read, learning to walk, learning to balance, learning to talk… it all took concentration beyond what Jean had ever used. She knew the words but she couldn’t put them together in sentences and she couldn’t comprehend what those sentences meant when she read the words. She knew all the numbers but actually dialing the phone took forever.

Frustrated with her progress she saw an Ottawa doctor who said she needed to rest. To stop. To give her body the chance to catch up. And so, for half a year she rested. And she began to see results, in memory, reading, and phone use.

Emotional connections were still a challenge for her and it was at a family reunion when she connected with a relative that she was close to, that all her memories of relationships came flooding back.”I’d always had an incredible memory so this was very challenging for me,” says Jean.

Her marriage didn’t survive her stroke, though, and neither did her business or her friendships. Jean turned to figure skating to develop more physical skills and she entered a skating dance weekend in Barrie, staying with her friend’s uncle, Cory.

Jean moved to Barrie two years after her stroke, in 1999. She and Cory Oostrom were married five years later. Today, Jean manages the database and special projects for the Barrie Chamber of Commerce and she loves this work.

She manages the residual effects of her stroke–brain overwhelm–by staying calm. She avoids too much stimulation because she doesn’t want the physical reaction that comes with it. “I call it the injured brain rant,” she says of the temper tantrum that can erupt if she’s had too much.

This year, on the 16th anniversary of her stroke, Jean wrote and self published through Amazon her book, called New Brain Living. Its subtitle, “where people with brain injuries and the people who care for them can find answers” really tells Jean’s story and gives back to its readers in many many ways.

It’s a message of action, and hope and it’s specific in its recommendations and reminiscences. Jean has been a regular columnist with the Springwater News for several years, and her website, www.newbrainliving.com, has the book available through it.

In September, Jean was invited to speak to 102 people at the Brain Injury Association of Canada. She spoke to researchers, caregivers, and brain injured participants. How did that feel? “It was great!” says Jean. Jean has written an article on technology for the Ontario Brain Injury Association.

I asked which chapters are her favourites, the ones she’d like to shout about… she was quick with her answer. The Place Where the Brain has had Enough, and The Injured Brain Rant.

Jean’s message? “I work full time today, that’s inspirational for others. Recovery is possible. Spouses should concenrate on who their partner is, not on what they’ve lost. The nasty things usually coming from overload,” she says.

She written this book so people stop falling through the cracks of support. She wants to give support for brain injured people and their caregivers, and this book does just that!

You can reach jean by email: jean@newbrainliving.com and find her book at www.newbrainliving.com

What a gift this gives to others! Thanks, Jean.