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VCU Health is first Virginia hospital to host camp for stroke survivors and their families

Road to recovery

By Leha Byrd

University Public Affairs




VCU Health is the first hospital system in Virginia to sponsor a nationally recognized camp for stroke survivors. The Retreat and Refresh Stroke Camp, originally based in Illinois, organizes camps throughout the country with the goal of improving quality of life for stroke survivors, caregivers and their families.

The camp will be held Sept. 8-10 in Wakefield and is one of several distinguished firsts in stroke care and rehabilitation for VCU Health and the Virginia Commonwealth University Comprehensive Stroke Center. In 2015, under the leadership of Warren Felton III, M.D., VCU Comprehensive Stroke Center medical director, VCU Medical Center was designated the first certified comprehensive stroke center in Virginia. VCU Medical Center was the first in the state to expand stroke alerts to 24 hours, and the first to integrate emergency department multimodal neuroimaging for acute stroke diagnosis, regardless of severity.

Hosting the Retreat and Refresh Stroke Camp is just another way VCU Health is leading the charge of caring for stroke patients and maximizing their recovery and rehabilitation, said Kristina Gooch, a registered nurse at the VCU Comprehensive Stroke Center.

“We are beyond excited to sponsor this camp for stroke survivors throughout Virginia,” Gooch said. “Any resource we can offer to help patients improve their lifestyle and lifespan is optimally important to us, and we’re always looking for ways to expand our offerings.”

“Any resource we can offer to help patients improve their lifestyle and lifespan is optimally important to us.”

Depending on their level of disability after a stroke, many victims cannot return to their normal activities or lifestyle. The camps are designed for survivors to re-engage in activities that are healthy and push themselves toward rehabilitation and discovering new capabilities. Additionally, the weekend retreat includes survivor and caregiver breakout groups, as well as pampering and educational and recreational activities like hiking and paddle boating. Attendees were recruited through stroke support groups statewide and via social media.

An interdisciplinary team of nurses, physical therapists, recreational therapists, social workers and an administrative assistant helped organize the event at the Airfield 4H Conference Center. Gooch said she’s talked to other retreat and refresh camp directors who say the program provides countless benefits to patients and their families.

“From making new friends, to just laughing and having fun for the first time since their stroke, it is not only [of benefit] for the survivor, but the positive outcomes are for the family too. They can all find a new sense of independence,” Gooch said.

Sponsoring the Retreat and Refresh Stroke Camp is part of VCU Health’s ongoing initiatives to educate the community about stroke. During National Stroke Month in May, VCU Health had several events to bring awareness to stroke, including Strike Out Stroke Night At The Diamond with the Richmond Flying Squirrels. Also this year, VCU Medical Center earned its eighth American Heart Association/American Stroke Association Get With The Guidelines-Stroke recognition, which acknowledges the hospital met specific quality achievement measures for the diagnosis and treatment of stroke patients. More than one-third of VCU Medical Center stroke patients are transferred from other hospitals throughout Virginia, so being properly equipped to care for and educate them is essential.

“With the camp coming up this weekend,” Gooch said, “the goal is to motivate, inspire and support our community.”


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