My name is David Valiulis. Some of you may know me as Colette's brother. Or you may know me as your Cousin Dave. But I’m here mainly as a stoke survivor. And I want to tell you a story….
Once, when I was giving a talk about my aphasia, a student asked me if there were any other problems that affected me after my stroke. This was an innocent question – and I tried to answer it calmly – but it had the unintended result that my 5-year struggle washed over me and made me very emotional. After all, where do you begin to describe what you go through when you wake up and find yourself unable to speak and the whole right side of your body unresponsive? Where do you begin?
Such is the plight of a stroke survivor. We want people to understand our challenges, but not to pity us. We want people to not see us as a collection of disabilities but as we see ourselves -- as whole people. We are not a bunch of brave martyrs, but people who uniquely know life has to go on.
And that brings me to Stroke Camp.
- Stroke Camp is a place that gets it.
- That understands that communication doesn't necessarily mean speaking.
- That helping others is a strong motivator to helping ourselves.
- That caregivers and family need our support too.
- That making new friends is possible.
- And that being accepted is as easy as hugging a stranger or singing a goofy song.
Stroke Camp is a reminder that rest is good for the body and good for the soul. We all have baggage we have to carry through life. Stroke Camp allows us to reflect a little on it, to accept it, and then to carry on.
Thank you all for supporting this wonderful camp.