Imagine having a brainstem stroke at age thirty-six that leaves you a quadriplegic with a severe speech disorder. Imagine spending the next thirteen years of your life typing with a head pointer, an on-screen keyboard and “word prediction” and eventually building the largest on-line stroke support community in the world.
You don’t have to imagine what a website like that would look like; you can visit The Stoke Network and see what Steve Mallory, an x-aerospace engineer, was able to accomplish in this true-life scenario.
“I may be disabled,” Steve said in my interview, “but on the computer I’m practically able bodied again.” And he isn’t kidding. The website is technically very sophisticated with all its bells and whistles and it’s constantly being upgraded.
A stroke happens literally every minute and there are millions of people, in all age brackets, with no local support groups available to them. Strokenet’s on-line community fills that void in their lives. The site serves its 5,475 members by providing a busy message board with thirty forums, an active blog community, eight chat rooms, a photo gallery, a private messenger system, an on-line store, a monthly newsletter, and an information resources area to name its more popular features.
Last year alone, the message board had over 887,000 views. Visitors have come from seventy countries and the site can be translated into eight languages with one simple click.
“On-line service,” Steve says, “is more important to disabled people than able-bodied people will ever know.”
Visitors coming to Stroke Network’s home page (www.strokenetwork.org) can become a registered member by clicking on the ‘Stroke Support’ button or they can check out the message board and blog community first by clicking on the ‘Guest’ button. On the message board, guests can click on various forums that are dedicated to topics like cutting-edge stem cell treatments, survivor-to-survivor support, therapies, disability sports and hobbies, relationships, language disorders and more.
Another area of the message board offers caregiver and family forums that cover issues like peer support, sharing tips, questions from newbies to seasoned caregivers, and burn out. The blog community can be accessed through the ‘Community Links’ drop-down menu at the top of the board.
“I’ve dedicated the rest of my life to helping other stroke survivors get their on-line life started,” Mr. Mallory says, “because it makes me so happy to show them that there IS life after having a stroke. I feel very driven about assisting my stroke brothers and sisters with finding support and resources on-line.”
Steve is also proud of having a dedicated staff of volunteers who, with his leadership, help make this non-profit organization function like a well-oiled machine. From all appearances, other staff members have a similar dedication to their duties at Strokenet.
They are readily available to help new members find their way around the site and to offer quality peer support, whether the new member has just been thrown into the stroke recovery process or their stroke experience was decades ago. No stroke experience is too minor or too severe for acceptance into the Stroke Network community.
“I am a strong believer that using the computer heals the brain by using and exercising it,” says Steve Mallory, founder and hands-on CEO of this extraordinary website—or to be more accurate, this ‘heads-on’ CEO. People who visit this site and learn his story are blown away by what a quadriplegic with a severe speech disorder has been able to accomplish and you will be, too. ©