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St. Vincent Healthcare provides positive help at Stroke Camp

Eleanor Guerrero
CCN Senior Reporter

Late last month stroke survivors and their caregivers gathered at Rock Creek Resort in Red Lodge for a weekend of socializing and education during the annual Retreat and Refresh Stroke Camp funded by the St. Vincent Healthcare Foundation. Penny Clifton, Nurse Coordinator of Stroke Program and Neuroscience Education at St. Vincent Healthcare explained why stroke camp gives numerous benefits. “Stroke is not a leading cause of death in the United States but it is the number one cause of disability,” says Clifton. “The disability is both physical and emotional. This camp is designed to restore hope in both areas.”  She said, “Stroke survivors and their caregivers came from as far away as Darby, Montana and Thermopolis, Wyoming to share experience, strength, and hope with one another. 

Every story is different but hope and resilience and determination is shared by all. Many struggle with depression but at camp, they find they are not alone, it is not unusual, and they can talk about it.” Isolation is common after a stroke keeping the individual from normal socializing. Clifton said, “Survivors don’t go out much, don’t travel, they aren’t invited to things anymore.

Caregivers are often exhausted with 24/7 responsibilities. At camp, we can offer safety and support and a chance to share those feelings with others who feel the same.” Some survivors feel shame about their appearance-a drooping smile or a leg that doesn’t work like before. They may hesitate to even exercise outside because of being seen. If speech is impaired they may be embarrassed that people won’t understand them or will assume they’ve lost some mental sharpness. They may simply become self-conscious and withdraw from interactions. This isolation results in loneliness. The camp provides perspective. Three attendees live alone and admitted they battle loneliness. When they left camp, however, they said they were proud of their independence.

They focused on what they were able to accomplish and shared stories with others. News of important new treatments may be exchanged. Melissa Petak, Marketing and Communications Coordinator for St. Vincents said, “Everyone goes away with something new. This year, said we learned about horse therapy for stroke called hippotherapy. We heard of a therapy pool in Hamilton MT that has an underwater treadmill (only one in the state) and an intensive program for speech in Missoula that campers say really helps.”  Petak said, “Special thanks to the Rock Creek Resort staff who made this event a healing environment for our stoke survivors, their families, caregivers and volunteers!” “This camp is an extension of our stroke care,” explained Clifton.

“We recognize the value in helping these survivors connect with one another to share experience, strength and hope.” The camp is intended to give the survivors and their caregivers an opportunity to relax, share stories with one another, restore confidence and a sense of belonging. Without tents and sleeping bags, the event at Rock Creek is more a retreat, in a beautiful and peaceful setting, to help stroke survivors recognize the many things they can do as opposed to what they cannot.

For the nearly one-third of stroke patients who are left with a disability, the impact on them and their caregivers is significant. Learning to walk, talk and move again is taxing mentally, physically and emotionally. According to Clifton, depression is common, particularly at the twelve-month mark when patient progress often plateaus. The camp was staffed by nurse, therapist and stroke survivor volunteers from St. Vincent Healthcare. As a Joint Commission Certified Primary Stroke Center, St. Vincent Healthcare sees this camp as an important part of stroke care across the continuum.


  • Up to 80 percent of strokes are preventable.
  • At any sign of stroke call 9-1-1- immediately. Treatment may be available.
  • Stroke can happen to anyone at any time.
  • Stroke is a "brain attack."
  • Stroke recovery is a lifelong process.
  • There are nearly 7 million stroke survivors in the U.S. Stroke is the 5th leading cause of death in the U.S.
  • Family history of stroke increases your chance for stroke. 
  • Temporary stroke symptoms are called transient ischemic attacks (TIA).
  • They are warning signs prior to actual stroke and need to be taken seriously.

The Signs of a Stroke according to the American Stroke Association: “FAST”:

  • Face drooping
  • Arm Weakness
  • Speech difficulty

Time to call 911

Questions? Call the Stroke Help line: 1-800-STROKES



Upcoming Events

  • Monday, April 22, 2019 - 6:00pm
    Paintbrush Piecers Quilt Guild meeting will be Monday April 22 at 6 p.m. at the Cody Sr. Center. After a short business meeting the program will be a trunk show presented by Betty Hecker, Audrey Clark and Sharon Kaeding from Red Lodge. Meetings are free and guests are welcome. For information contact Marybeth 754-5399
  • Monday, April 22, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Joliet Group meets at the Community Center Monday at 7 p.m.
  • Tuesday, April 23, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Now Group meets at the Bridger United Methodist Church, 222 W. Broadway (west entrance of church) Tuesday at 7 p.m.
  • Thursday, April 25, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Meets every Thursday, 7 p.m. – 8 p.m. at the Red Lodge Area Community Foundation, 122 S. Hauser. It is open to all. 425- 1755.
  • Thursday, April 25, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Clarks Fork Group meets at St. Joseph’s Catholic Hall, north end of Montana Avenue, Thursday at 7 p.m.
  • Friday, April 26, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Rock Creek Group meets Tuesdays and Saturdays at 8 a.m. and Wednesdays and Fridays at 7 p.m. at Calvary Church, 9 N Villard, Red Lodge.

The Carbon County News

Street Address:

11 N. Broadway, Red Lodge, MT 59068

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 970, Red Lodge, MT 59068

Phone: 406-446-2222

Fax: 406-446-2225

Toll-Free: 800-735-8843

Open: Monday-Friday, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.