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Stroke Patient Returns To Hospital As Volunteer

Evening Edition

Aired 9/12/13 on KPBS News.

Many organizations have chosen to turn 9/11 into a day of service by encouraging people to volunteer. Aimeeleigh Coulter, who suffered a massive brain steam stroke in 2012, is one of those volunteers.

Many organizations have chosen to turn 9/11 into a day of service by encouraging people to volunteer. Aimeeleigh Coulter, who suffered a massive brain stem stroke in 2012, is one of those volunteers.

"You never know what's going to happen, when it's going to happen," said Coulter, 33, who volunteers at Tri-City Medical Center in Vista as a patient advocate.

It wasn't long ago that Coulter was on the other side of things as a patient.

"It's important to always say goodbye to people, be positive, tell them you love them, because you never know what's going to happen when you get a massage," Coulter said.

Coulter suffered a massive brain stem stroke last year after getting a vigorous massage to her neck. It left her paralyzed for weeks and unable to speak. She could only communicate by blinking.

"I was basically a baby. I couldn't talk, swallow well, I drooled, couldn't feed myself," she said. "I was a mess."

After months in hospital rooms and even a nursing home, she's regained her strength and now knows what a difference the little things can do to help someone recover.

"The nurses are so busy. They do so much," Coulter said. "I think it's really helpful to have someone who's not clinical, who's just like 'do you need another blanket? How about some Chapstick? Are you bored? Do you want a magazine, a movie?'"

Coulter is one of about 450 auxiliary volunteers at Tri-City Medical Center. She said volunteering is her therapy.

For volunteer opportunities, check out Tri-City's website: www.tricitymed.org.

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