Pam Bedford regularly finds herself teaching her fellow stroke survivors about their new normal.
“Just because we can't do something the way we used to do it doesn't mean we can't do it,” she said. “We just have to find different ways of getting it done.”
Bedford is part of a movement of survivors in the Oklahoma City metro area who are raising awareness about life after stroke or brain injury.
Bedford volunteers with Operation: Helping Brains, a volunteer network among survivors of stroke and brain injury.
Janet Spradlin started the volunteer group last year as a part of a project for a leadership academy in which she was participating. Spradlin, a licensed rehabilitation psychologist, got the idea to start Operation: Helping Brains through a stroke support group she started 1993.
Operation: Helping Brains was initially just a short-term project, but Spradlin saw the joy that volunteering brought to survivors and thought the group should continue.
“One of the things I always talk to the group about is being proactive and empowering themselves to they can have a good quality of life after stroke,” Spradlin said. “They can reinvent themselves, and one of the ways is by helping others and feeling useful, productive and valued.”
So far, the group has volunteered around Oklahoma City, including at the Oklahoma City Zoological Park and Botanical Gardens and also at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. During April, group members will volunteer for a diabetes support organization for an upcoming fundraiser.
The stroke support group's next meeting is April 22 at Grand House Restaurant at 2701 N Classen Blvd. Anyone interested in volunteering can attend the meeting to find out more information about signing up.
Bedford was only 43 when she suffered from a hemorrhagic stroke. Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in your brain leaks or ruptures, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Bedford's husband was a firefighter and quickly recognized his wife was suffering from the symptoms of a stroke. He called 911, and luckily, the bleeding stopped before Bedford needed surgery.
Bedford can no longer work and appreciates the opportunity that Operation: Helping Brains provides.
It makes her feel like she has a purpose.
“I'm a long way from retirement,” she said. “So, it gives me something to do that makes me feel like I'm helping and doing something worthwhile.”