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Shelly LaBrasceur: A True Survivor

The Sarnia Journal has partnered with local photographer Art Connolly to feature his captivating “Humans of Sarnia” series as he delves into the lives and experiences of everyday people in Sarnia.
Shelly LaBrasceur

Allow me to introduce you to Shelly LaBrasceur, a Sarnia native who dedicated over a decade to working as a Personal Support Worker. Seven years ago, Shelly faced a life-altering event when she suffered a stroke that targeted the left side of her body, impacting her right side. The aftermath of this stroke left her unable to walk or speak. Through rigorous rehabilitation, Shelly managed to reclaim these abilities.

As I engaged in conversation with Shelly, it was nearly impossible to detect any visible signs of her stroke. However, she shared that there were subtle effects she grappled with, ones not easily seen. She disclosed a "numb" sensation in a portion of her face, noting that excessive smiling could trigger discomfort. Physical fatigue also comes easily to Shelly, often leading to what she describes as "brain fog."

Shelly contends with other challenges, those less transparent to people. Long-term memory has taken a hit, while her short-term memory remains unaffected. Cherished memories like her children's births and their early years have faded away. Playfully, Shelly quipped that her life now revolves around post-it notes and lists, the tools that help her maintain order. During our meeting, she had prepared notes to guide our discussion, although she only referenced them occasionally.

She mentioned challenges with crowds and loud noises yet highlighted that her ability to drive remained unaffected despite the memory loss – she successfully passed a driving test to ensure her capability.

Shelly's laughter comes easily, accompanied by a sense of humour she openly shares. Recounting her experience discovering tattoos after regaining consciousness post-stroke, Shelly's ability to find amusement in herself was evident. She had no recollection of getting numerous tattoos.

With the unwavering support of her family, Shelly navigates life with grace. Her two grown sons and two cherished grandchildren bring a sparkle to her eyes whenever she speaks of them. Shelly has utilized the resources offered by The Brain Injury Association of Sarnia, attending weekly coffee gatherings to connect with fellow members. Additionally, she finds solace in a devoted Personal Support Worker (PSW), who visits her for two hours each week, providing invaluable assistance. A six-year wait for assisted living aid underscores the demand for such services.

Regrettably, when the stroke struck, Shelly lacked both short-term and long-term disability coverage from her employer. She now relies on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) and Meals on Wheels for financial support.

Despite her challenges, Shelly's resilience shines through. She faces her hurdles head-on and has even unearthed a new artistic talent for drawing – an endeavour she had not pursued before the stroke.

Yet, amid her journey, Shelly has also experienced disappointment. She noted the loss of friendships post-stroke, perhaps due to her friend’s discomfort with the changes she underwent. Her advice to those feeling uncertain: "Don't be afraid of us. Sit down and have a conversation with us. We are easy going and easy to talk with."

Shelly, indeed, your disposition embodies just that – approachable, resilient, and an inspiration to us all.

"Humans of Sarnia" founder Art Connolly is a man fuelled by curiosity and a passion for connecting with people in Sarnia. Inspired by the renowned “Humans of New York” series, with a camera in hand, he captures the very essence of the individuals  he encounters, preserving their stories through his lens. Follow his series on Instagram and Facebook.

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