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First came the stroke, then the inspiration...

October 30, 2018

Kelsie Snow with some of the 115 gift pouches she raised money for and assembled to help make stroke patients feel more comfortable while in hospital.

Kelsie pays it forward with gift bags of comfort items for hospital patients

Story & Photo by Blain Fairbairn

CALGARY — When a headache and vertigo suddenly struck Kelsie Snow during a workout at the gym last March, the notion she might be having a stroke was the farthest thing from her mind.

Young, healthy and having never experienced symptoms, Kelsie was surprised to learn she’d suffered a moderate ischemic stroke, after physicians at Foothills Medical Centre (FMC) found a 4 cm tear in her vertebral artery.

After a six-day recovery on the hospital’s stroke unit, the 35-year-old was discharged and has since made a full recovery. Despite an otherwise traumatic and frightening experience, Kelsie emerged determined to make the most of it — by doing something to help other stroke patients feel a little more comfortable in hospital.

“I started to think about things I might have needed, or wished I had, when I was in hospital and how that might help somebody else,” says Kelsie.

Her stay in hospital motivated her to donate 115 curated personal care pouches, all beautifully packaged in designer toiletry bags. Inside each pouch are all the items Kelsie wished she had as a patient: a sleeping mask, ear plugs, mints, hand sanitizer, face cleansing pads and more.

“Nobody’s ready to pack that bag when they’ve just had a stroke,” she says. “My husband was at work when I was taken to the hospital. He did his best to bring me what he thought was important, but I had no real concept of what I would want or need.”

Kelsie reached out to family and friends across North America with her idea, in hopes of raising enough money for about 50 pouches. To her delight and astonishment, the final tally allowed her to put together 115 pouches.

Samantha Arnott, FMC’s stroke-unit manager, says Kelsie’s creative act of kindness will go a long way to brighten up the days of patients.

“We’ve never had anything like this donated to the unit before, so it’s really exciting,” says Arnott. “Hospitals are busy places and I think this will mean a lot to our patients. To know that someone is thinking about us and our patients is just so nice to see. We really appreciate what Kelsie’s done.”

For Kelsie, who keeps a positive and grateful mindset, her stroke wasn’t so much a setback as an opportunity to pay forward the support her network and care team gave her while she recovered.

“Someone asked me if I felt sad or depressed after my stroke and I really had the opposite experience,” adds the mother of two. “One of the things these packages did for me was remind me of how much support and caring I received.

“I hope that patients here will feel the same way and know that someone’s thinking about them, that someone knows what they’re going through, and that someone is aware of the little things that could make their stay a little easier.”