BY JON CASWELL
Christine Duval lived through both her parents’ strokes and has been her father’s caregiver for more than a decade, but has found support from Tedy’s Team. In 1997, when she was a junior in high school, Christine’s father Joseph had a cerebral hemorrhage at age 50. It left him with aphasia and right-side weakness. Christine’s mother Beverly quit her job and stayed home to be his caregiver for five years. Then without warning, an aneurysm ruptured in Beverly’s brain in November 2003 while she was visiting Christine at college in Denver.
Through Tedy’s Team, Christine has learned about the warning signs acronym F.A.S.T. — Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 9-1-1, but her mother had no warning signs. “We were shopping in Home Depot and she just collapsed,” Christine recalled. “She was laughing and giving one of the employees a hard time just moments before. Obviously, F.A.S.T. is very important for people, but it didn’t work out in my situation. We had no time to act because we didn’t know what was happening.”
Christine Duval (center) with Tedy and Heidi Bruschi
Beverly never returned to her home and lives in a care facility in Boston. She cannot walk, and has aphasia and limb spasticity. For many years she could not feed herself.
At 23, Christine left her nursing degree unfinished and moved home to take care of her father and oversee the care of her mother. That was 11 years ago.
She’s grateful to be able to care for her parents, but she also grieves for them. “The thing that’s most difficult is they’re both physically here, but I’ve lost them,” she said. “The stroke took my mother’s humor and silliness and my dad’s smart wits about everything around the house. I miss them. I miss them a ton.”
Soon after moving home, Christine began working at her family’s business, Andy’s Sports Shop, which sells ski equipment and scuba gear in the Boston area. After buying the business seven years ago her life got busy. Although she has always been active, for someone with such a dramatic family history of stroke, she didn’t pay much attention to her health. “I definitely didn’t watch what I ate, and I wasn’t a daily exerciser,” she said.
That would change after joining Tedy’s Team in October 2013, originally to raise money and awareness for stroke. “After the surgery to clamp my mother’s aneurysm, the surgeon said she would be running a marathon in a couple of months,” Christine recalled. “Of course, that didn’t happen, so every day that I can run, I’m trying to live for her and my father. So everything that’s happened with my parents and their struggles and getting to the point where they are now, which is the best they’re going to be, motivates me to be a runner, to be healthy, and to raise awareness and money for stroke.” Her parents are her stroke heroes, and to honor them she started the hashtag — ‘em4mad,’ which is ‘every mile for mom and dad.’
She will run her fourth marathon with Tedy’s Team in April. Christine has run four half-marathons and two Falmouth Road Races. As much as she enjoys running, the camaraderie and support of her teammates has touched her most. “Not only do we run together and raise money and awareness, but we’re a support group,” she said. “When one of us is going through something with our stroke heroes, we are able to support each other.”
The team has supported her as a caregiver, which she didn’t have after her mother’s stroke. “One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t reach out and look for support,” Christine said. “I didn’t know where to look, and besides I was young and thought I was invincible. But I’m a much better person, a happier person now that I have a support group around me. Being a caregiver is tough. It’s a full-time job. You can’t do it alone.”
Editor’s Note: If you’re a family caregiver hoping to connect with others for support, visit the AHA/ASA’s Support Network, an online community for survivors and caregivers.