Story by: Polly Esther MacKay
In 1998, my Mom, Mary Lea McGoogan, retired from teaching with a lot of reservation after my father had suffered a massive stroke in 1992. For six years she continued to be an excellent administrator and mentor to some of the most needy children in the Washington D.C. area with a smile everyday. Then came home to continue being a caregiver to my Dad, who at age 58, had become completely dependent on her.
For 13 awesome years my parents enjoyed retirement in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina as best they could. Mom was and still is an awesome caregiver. She was the first to say let’s focus on your Dad’s abilities not disabilities. So that meant trips to Florida, Alaska, Mexico, the Caribbean, and the list goes on. The focus of my Mom’s world was retraining and caring for my Dad.
In 2010, after a lifetime of giving to others, my Mom began to have heart problems which sadly led to a pacemaker and complications from a stroke. After three very big scares in North Myrtle Beach, it became apparent it was time for us to take care of Mom instead of her taking care of everyone else.
We transferred her stroke rehabilitation to Brooks Rehabilitation in St. Augustine. She had intense rehabilitation: occupational, physical, and speech therapy. What a blessing to have the outpatient center in St. Augustine. She was having so much fun and making progress that she didn’t want to “graduate”. Slowly but surely Mom graduated from speech, then physical and occupational therapies. Her therapist Becky Ellis mentioned they had a stroke wellness program at the St. Augustine YMCA. We were a little on the fence because of Mom’s unsteady gate but boy am I glad we went.
The Brooks Stroke Wellness Program at the YMCA has helped Mom both physically and emotionally. She has new friends in her fellow stroke survivors as well as a bond with the staff and the interns. I must say, for myself as a caregiver for both of my parents, it is great that the caregivers, spouses and families have a place to gather and be themselves. The bond I have developed with this group is truly amazing since we all come from such diverse backgrounds.
I guess I am a true representative of the sandwich generation. I am a wife, a mother of two boys and a daughter of two wonderful parents with amazing abilities not disabilities. I am also a small business owner. The Brooks Stroke Wellness Program at the YMCA has made a difference in my life and the life of my parents. Brooks Rehabilitation has truly been and continues to be a blessing in our lives.