Regina Rotar, Patient and Family Advisor
I am a two-time stroke survivor and a brain tumor survivor. I’m supposed to be in a wheelchair right now. I spent 182 days in the hospital and was told I’d probably not walk again. But I told them, 'I’ll be walking out of here!'
I don't they realized how determined I was, but they quickly found out! In physical therapy when they told me to 10 reps, I’d do 20. I spent months recovering from the strokes so I could then undergo brain surgery (when I was hospitalized from the stroke, they discovered I also had a brain tumor).
I had to relearn how to talk, walk and write. It was not easy, but I was not giving up! Speech therapy was especially frustrating for me. It was hard to not be able to communicate the way I wanted to. I had to keep a positive attitude, stay motivated and focus on the many reasons to be grateful…for being transferred to UW Hospital, for the incredible team that took care of me, for Dr. Baskaya who is a real-life super hero (his super power is healing!) and for the amazing support of my husband, in-laws and extended family. It was the hardest time of my life and yet I felt so loved and cared for throughout my experience.
My advice to other patients is to never give up on your goals for your life and your recovery. It’s yours to win. Stay positive, even when there are setbacks. It’s not going to be easy, but you can do it!
My advice for caregivers and staff is to involve the patient in as many discussions as you can. Don’t talk over their heads, but engage them in the conversation. Also, don’t be afraid to be yourself. I so appreciated it when the nurses/staff were real with me. I’ll never forget the nurse who refused to let me have a pity party one day.
Following brain surgery, I faced another six weeks of recovery. I remember someone asking me, 'Why are you always smiling?' I told them nothing was going to take away my sense of humor or my joy. I was determined to dance again – and I did!
Once I regained my health, it was important for me to give back. I wanted to offer hope and comfort to others. One day I was volunteering at the hospital and met a woman who was deeply afraid for her husband. Turns out, I had the same type of brain tumor as her husband (and the same superhero doctor, Dr. Baskaya). I reassured her they were in good hands and she couldn’t believe that I had already been through it. She asked to give me a hug and later sent me a card thanking me. It felt great to be able to ease her fears and give her hope. It means so much for someone to see that they or their loved one can be ok again.
Now that I am retired, I enjoy volunteering, writing and baking. I’ve even resumed my calligraphy hobby (I’ve come a long way from relearning to write!). I’m not the exactly as I was before the strokes, but I focus on what I CAN do.
I love inspirational quotes and one of my favorites is Mayo Angelo’s, “People will forget what you said; People will forget what you did; But people will never forget how you made them feel.”
I hope that I can use my experiences to help others find hope and healing.
- Regina Rotar, survivor, volunteer/Patient and Family Advisor
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