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Sewickley-based stroke support group welcomes members

| Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, 9:02 p.m.
Sewickley Herald
Linda Taylor of Rochester, bottom right, a registered nurse, leads an exercise during the Sewickley Stroke Support Group Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, at St. Stephen's Church. Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Sewickley Herald
George Miller of Moon, seated next to his wife, Phyllis, punches a beach ball during an exercise session held as part of the Sewickley Stroke Support Group Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, at St. Stephen's Church. Miller has suffered four strokes. Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Sewickley Herald
Bea Morrow of Aleppo participates in an exercise session during the Sewickley Stroke Support Group Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, at St. Stephen's Church. Morrow, now 73, suffered a stroke when she was 51. Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Sewickley Herald
Sewickley Stroke Support Group organizer Louise Skrabut of Sewickley, at left, and Mary Hustead of Ambridge participate in an exercise session during a group meeting at St. Stephen's Church Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. Skrabut has not had a stroke, but began attending 11 years ago with her husband, Michael, who died in 2009. Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald

Bea Morrow of Sewickley said she remembers thinking that she was too young to be a stroke victim.

“I thought I had the flu,” she said. “I was so sick with aches and pains, and the flu was going around so much then that is was hard to get an appointment to see the doctor.”

When she finally did see her physician, he asked her to walk across the room and noticed her foot was dragging behind her.

“He said, ‘I think you've had a stroke,'” Morrow said.

Only 51 at the time, she said, she was surprised and shocked at the diagnosis. She had to quit her job as a rural postal carrier, which required her to walk to some destinations.

The worker who took over for her told Morrow that one of the postal customers had recommended that she check out the St. Stephen's Sewickley Stroke Support Group.

“I was reluctant. I didn't think it would help,” she said.

But, when her friend kept encouraging her to try it, Morrow said, “ I thought, ‘OK, I'll go and see what it's all about.'

“It turned out to be the best thing I could have done for myself.”

That was in 1991, and Morrow, now 73, still attends meetings, which are held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month at St. Stephen's Church, 405 Frederick Ave., Sewickley.

But, now after 27 years, membership is dwindling, volunteer Louise Skrabut said.

Although the group used to have as many as 35 members, it now has about 16, and some of those members aren't able to make it to the meetings anymore.

Skrabut said she is hoping more members and potential members will come to the group's Christmas party from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday at St. Stephen's Church. New members are asked to bring someone with them and talk to a nurse at the meeting.

Both Morrow and Skrabut said they don't want to see the group end, because it has done so much good for so many people.

“I don't think a lot of people know about the group. We never advertised it before, because we never really had to,” Skrabut said.

And, some people who do know about the group are reluctant to join. “They don't realize how good it would be for them,” Morrow said.

During the meetings, members participate in an exercise session with trained nurses, Linda Taylor or Adrienne Groom, to improve strength and balance and brain activities to improve memory loss.

Skrabut said she has seen members make a lot of progress through the programs.

“The whole group yells and cheers when someone moves their fingers who couldn't do it before,” she said.

Morrow said the group has helped her physically with the exercise training and emotionally because she met so many new friends who understood what she was going through.

“We all are very close. We're like family,” she said.

Skrabut agreed that the group is more like a social club.

“I think of it as an over-50 club, but you have to have a stroke first to join,” she said with a laugh.

“We all call each other and send birthday cards. One lady said when she lost her dog, she got about 10 cards from people.”

Morrow said she has loved participating in the many social events and activities over the years to help members get out of the house, stay active and enjoy time with other members.

Members eat together at Hoss's Steak and Sea House in Moon Township on the first Wednesday of each month. They also make treats for Meals on Wheels, made a quilt for The Watson Institute in Leet Township and have participated in other outings such as going to the movies, bowling and picnics.

Skrabut came to the group 11 years ago with her late husband, Michael, who had a stroke and was in a wheelchair. Morrow said she remembers Skabut's husband bowling from his wheelchair and having a great time.

After he died in 2009, Skrabut said she kept coming to the group as a volunteer, because she just loved the people so much.

She is not the only one who has stayed with the group as a volunteer.

Pat Fulton joined in 1986, a year after Carole Churchill formed the group, and the late Jean Dixon volunteered for 25 years. Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or jbarron@tribweb.com.

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