Navigating Life Beyond Stroke: Shawn’s Story

From Mechanic to Patient: A Stroke Changes Everything

I had to start all over. I had a good-paying job and I was finally living the way I wanted to. I didn’t have to work paycheck to paycheck anymore and then boom, it all got taken away.”

Shawn was an industrial laundry machine mechanic for over 40 years, he thrived on the physical demands of the job. It was a paycheck and it was a source of pride. Then, in September of 2019, a stroke ripped his world apart. Suddenly, the man who once wielded wrenches with ease struggled to walk with a cane. 

It would take Shawn almost a year later of recovering in a nursing home to realize, he was ready to begin his rehabilitation journey with Bancroft NeuroRehab.

Finding Hope at Bancroft NeuroRehab

When Shawn arrived at Bancroft NeuroRehab in August of 2020, frustrated and yearning for his old life, he needed a new plan. We offered him a continuum of care, a personalized approach that addressed his specific needs and goals. Shawn started by moving into a group residential home participating in various therapies so that he could continue his rehabilitation around the clock and feel supported in a home environment. He also took part in speech therapy to improve his communication and social skills, occupational therapy to regain his daily living skills such as cooking or cleaning, physical therapy to improve his movement and strength and talk therapy to deal with emotional challenges having a stroke left him with.

Loss and Resilience: A New Challenge Emerges

Shawn’s journey wasn’t without setbacks. While living in the residential program, he faced the heartbreaking loss of his partner of 24 years, Angie.

A gentleman and his two sons about to go ziplining.
Shawn and his two sons enjoying an afternoon together of ziplining.

“I don’t know what I would have done without my team. They did a wonderful job with helping me. You can’t teach compassion, that comes from the heart and you either have it or you don’t. And I can tell you that the therapists here have it and they helped me with everything when I heard about the passing of Angie.” Shawn reflects.

Bancroft NeuroRehab therapists provided their unwavering support, helping him navigate this new layer of grief. It would take Shawn some time again to accept this new reality, but when he did, he had one main focus: getting back to work.

Taking Charge of His Recovery

“Working gave me a sense of purpose.”

A 40+ year career is a hard adjustment for anyone when they choose to stop working, but when your body chooses for you, like Shawn’s, it’s a different kind of adjustment. His body told him he needed to stop, but his mind told him, “I can still do this.” Shawn had built a reputation in his industry for being a hard worker and he was unwilling to give that up.

With this determination in mind, he understood that the recovery required is not just in the therapies that he attended, but in the efforts that he would have to put into it. He began working harder in the rehabilitation programs in the clinic and creating his own exercise routines at home. 

Five months later, Shawn embarked on a transformative path. He regained significant walking ability and was an advocate for others in the program. He also gradually transitioned to more independent living arrangements in Bancroft’s supported apartment program.

Shawn finally hit his milestone: being ready to integrate back into the community with meaningful employment. He started by volunteering at places like Manna, Cherry Hill Township, and Muddy Paws Farm Rescue and the case managers in the vocational program at Bancroft NeuroRehab helped him with every step.

One of the most significant steps in his rehabilitation and meeting his employment goals, was when he began volunteering at Wawa. After some training, Shawn quickly progressed from a volunteer, funded by Wawa’s Supportive Employment program, to a paid position. His manager understood the importance of meaningful, competitive employment for adults with disabilities and she saw how much this job meant to Shawn. 

“I want to learn everything at Wawa, so I can put it on my resume… and then I can work at any Wawa I want to!”- Shawn

The Turning Point

Through hard work at Wawa and in his therapies, Shawn was able to increase the number of days worked at Wawa from two days a week to three. This newfound stability extended beyond work. He finally grasped control of his finances, earning back the right to manage his own bank account, which is a huge accomplishment considering the cognitive challenges his stroke left him with. Managing his finances was a task that his sister had taken on until the team felt that he was ready to handle it.

This financial freedom ignited a spark within Shawn. Starting with his apartment, he envisioned furnishing it with pieces that would reflect his style and needs. Saving has become his new focus, fueled by the desire for true independence.

Life Now With Bancroft NeuroRehab

Shawn hopes to complete the program in 3 years, continue living independently, working at Wawa, and make a healthy lifestyle his priority.

Why His Story Matters

Shawn’s story is an inspiration for stroke survivors and their families. His rehabilitation journey post-stroke shows the effectiveness of Bancroft’s rehabilitation program and the importance of a positive attitude and perseverance in the recovery journey.