In August 2012, Kim Rion suffered a stroke in her sleep. It left her with physical and mental changes and stole much of her independence. She said she misses driving the most.
"It didn't affect me so much physically as it did mentally. Numbers no longer make sense to me," said Rion. "I was a bookkeeper for 25 years and all of a sudden, at 50 years old, I had to find a new career."
"Emotionally you're changing,” said social worker Julie Renwick. “You've had a loss of part of you, of who you are. You're going through a type of grieving."
Adjusting to the changes was difficult, especially without support from friends or family. Rion did not recognize some of the warning signs of depression, like self-isolation, that were playing out in her own life.
In January 2013, she attempted suicide. She had sent a text message to her friend and caregiver, Misty Hokkanen, who quickly responded and helped her get medical treatment.
"I had to grieve for my life that was gone, and look to see the future,” Rion said. “Not focus on what I couldn't do anymore, but what I could do.”
She looked for others like herself, but soon found that a local support group for stroke survivors didn’t exist. So she started one, hoping to help other stroke survivors, families, and caregivers.
The Alaska Stroke Support Group met for the first time in mid-January at the Providence Family Medicine Center. It's open to anyone who may need support, Rion said.
The group plans to meet the second Tuesday of every month, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the center. Information is also available on the group's Facebook page, or by emailing Kim Rion at firstname.lastname@example.org.