Client Profile: Stroke Survivor, Linda

My name is Linda Robillard.

I used to live in the country with my best friend and my animals. I worked in the city for a recycling company. I was very STRONG! I was RECYCLE WOMAN!! I worked with the big guys and drove the big trucks.

I had a full and busy life.

In May of 2008, I sustained an injury to my back. Two weeks later, on June 2nd, I had a lot of pain in my neck, so I went to the doctor. The doctor said, “Take two aspirins, and call me in the morning.”

The next day, I had a stroke.

I ended up in Grey Nuns Hospital. After a pleasant stay of a month (ha ha), they shipped me off to Glenrose Rehab Hospital. That became my home for 13 months.

In the beginning, I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t read, I couldn’t write, I was paralyzed down my right side. My vision was affected, and I was hit with a wall of chronic pain. I had to re-learn everything AND how to do everything with my left hand.

This was a very dark time for me. I was extremely frustrated about everything and about not being able to get to my country home. I was desperate to speak and to tell people: I HAVE MY MIND! I KNOW what I want to say, but I CAN’T get it out of my mouth!!

My daughter is my hero. She was there right with me at the hospital so much of the time. She brought things to read to me, and she would try to get me to sound out the words and repeat after her. She had alphabet letters on flash cards and would encourage me to try to put them together to form words. I am so proud of my daughter and so thankful for her. My best friend is also my hero. He drove in EVERY DAY from the country to be with me at the hospital. He had so much patience for me during this time of recovery.

The staff at the Glenrose were amazing with me. They were so encouraging and supportive and understanding. I was working so hard to recover, but I could never have come so far without the wonderful nurses, doctors, therapists, aides, cleaners…EVERYBODY at the Glenrose. I’m so grateful for all of them and everything they did for me.

I made some good friends at the Glenrose, and I was inspired by other patients there; I was inspired to keep going. I didn’t want to give up – I had too much to lose.

At the hospital, they told me I would have to live in a nursing home. My best friend fought for me to have independent living. We found a nice apartment for me. That’s the good news. The bad news – I couldn’t live out in the country anymore.

When I first moved into my new home, my daughter and best friend helped me a lot! I also had some home care. I needed help to do almost everything. I went back to the Glenrose as an outpatient for more rehab for about a year. I worked SO HARD to make “independent living” more independent.

So, here’s a day in my life now (nine years later):

I wake up around 4:30 a.m. While I’m still in bed, I pull the covers neatly to make the bed as nicely as you would find in the Hotel MacDonald. I gracefully fall out of my bed on the left side. My cat Brodie, who has been sleeping under the covers, knows my routine and jumps out the way so he doesn’t get made into the bed.

I make myself a cup of tea. This simple task now takes much more thinking and effort and time to do than before. I have to really want that cup of tea.

I had to learn how to cook again, but I’m actually a better cook now than I was before. Plus, I’m more intentional about my food because it takes so much effort to make.

I make breakfast for myself and Brodie.

Then I take a deep breath and say a few “I can do it’s” to get ready for the shower. Showering is a lot of work, but it feels good and I like to get clean. Luckily, I get up super early, so I have lots of time to do these things.

Getting dressed can be extremely frustrating without the use of my right hand. Like everything else, it takes a lot longer (and a few bad words said) to get clothes on. I had my hair cut recently; it was down to my waist, and it has been getting in my way for ten years. I finally accepted that I had to cut it, and now getting dressed is a breeze (ha ha!).

Once I’m ready, I get everything I think I might need for the day packed onto one of my scooters. I have two scooters; one for taking on the bus (DATS) and one for scooting around town (look out! I’m a speed demon!). If I’ve forgotten anything, there’s no turning back, so I just have to deal with it.

During my day, I might be going to the Brain Care Centre for classes or to my exercise program at the YMCA (twice a week) or to volunteer at the SPCA (every Monday). Sometimes I have an appointment or need to go to the grocery store. Most of my days are jam-packed with activities outside my home. I prefer to drive myself on my scooter, and I can if it’s not too far away. Otherwise I take DATS to places like the SPCA or doctor’s appointments.

They really like me at the grocery store. Sometimes I make several trips back and forth from home to store in one day. I’m training the staff there (and some customers) to suit my needs. I still have trouble saying the words I want to say, but I keep trying.

Accessibility challenges are super frustrating. Many places still do not have accessible entry ways, passages wide enough for wheelchairs or scooters, or – MOST AGGRAVATING – accessible bathrooms. Lots of public bathrooms don’t have enough space for my scooter, and the latch to lock the door (if I manage to get in the stall) is tricky to get at with my one functioning hand. Sometimes I’ve had to resign myself to the situation and throw dignity out the window. Here I am, World!

Here’s how I feel now about the stroke that changed my life:

  • I really miss living in the country.
  • I miss driving (especially the big recycling truck).
  • I miss being physically fit and strong.
  • I miss wearing my cowboy boots and hat.
  • I still get frustrated trying to communicate.

Those are the difficult parts. But, my life before the stroke was on a downward spiral. I was angry, I was drinking and smoking too much, I had difficult relationships with my family, I was impatient and I couldn’t see the path ahead of me. I was fighting with myself and others.

I am a completely different person now. And I like who I’ve become.

Now, I have hope, I have dreams, I have purpose in my life, I am SUPREMELY patient. I have been living on my own for nine years already, and I am not just surviving: I’m THRIVING!

I have a better relationship with my family members, and I’m so glad about that.

I like myself now; I like the things I’ve learned about myself; I like the compassion that I can feel and show. I have dreams and aspirations for myself: the opportunities are endless!

I quit smoking, I quit drinking, I quit being angry about everything. I do still need a vice, though, so I’ve chosen chocolate!

I’ve learned how to ask for and accept help. But, I can see now how I need people and how they need me. I bring something to other people, too. Sometimes knowing me helps them develop more patience and compassion. Sometimes it’s bigger: my best friend quit smoking with me!

I am extremely grateful for everyone who has helped me along the way. I especially appreciate my daughter and best friend and good friends who care so much about me. I’m thankful for everybody at the Brain Care Centre who has supported me. So many people have touched my life, and I’ll never forget them.

Onward and upward!!

This story was written by Linda Robillard, with the assistance of Lianne, a volunteer with PALS (

The photo on the left is Linda volunteering at the SPCA.