By: Darice Aubuchon
December 31, 2013 was nothing out of the ordinary for cab driver Amy Petricca; she had spent New Year’s Eve with her long-term boyfriend Aaron and stayed the night at his home as she had so many times in the past. That night, however, was anything but ordinary. Amy suffered a major stroke while she was sleeping and thanks to Aaron realizing something was drastically wrong, he called 9-1-1 so she could receive the medical attention she so desperately needed.
Amy spent several weeks in Worcester as a patient at St. Vincents Hospital, following her transfer from Leominster Health Alliance. She was facing challenges that seemed unsurmountable. Her stroke had left her unable to walk, speak, or have any use of her right arm and hand; as luck had it she was a right-handed person. Amy could no longer read, spell words and her short term memory became severely impaired. Her twenty-five-year career with Ken’s Taxi Service had come to an abrupt halt and life for this 47-year-old mother of son Mark, had just taken a sudden detour that she wasn’t prepared to navigate her way from. Dealing with a history of anxiety and depression was hard enough, starting over with relearning how to talk and walk was overwhelming.
Upon arrival at Sterling Village, she admits she was very anti-social. Each day she had physical, occupational and speech therapy to help her rebuild the motor-skills she had lost with the stroke. She knew in her heart if she truly wanted her life back, she was going to have to fight and work even after the day’s therapy sessions were over. Amy credits James, the CNA, with being her angel; “I LOVE James”, she exclaimed, while describing how he would help her walk every day, while at the same time encouraging her to speak and practice talking. Even when the words would come out wrong, he would gently encourage her to try and try again. “He never lost patience and was always kind”! Ed the nurse and especially Patti Creen, her current social worker, are credited with not only her recovery, but assisting her with finally being discharged from Sterling Village and ultimately moving in to a local group home on July 20th. Patti, in collaboration with The Center of Living and Working were able to find a place for Amy.
In addition to the staff, Amy’s relationships with her past roommates have all played a role in her overcoming her anxiety and depression. “They’re gone! I no longer have a problem with being antisocial either. Every woman I have shared a room with has been a Virgo, just like me and I don’t think it was a coincidence. They all forced me to come out of my shell and talk about myself. I have been so lucky that we were all there for each other.” The one fellow resident she will truly miss is Elaine; they have exchanged phone numbers so they can keep in touch.
While talking about her upcoming 50th birthday on August 26th, Amy claims the only wish she had is to be able to leave and go live at her new home. She is excited to be waking up when she wants, having her own bedroom with new linens and furniture, taking the van to the movies, appointments and especially out to eat. Being closer to friends and family is the best part of all. She still has one goal to achieve; to be able to dispense her own medications. There is little doubt she will one day reach it.