Navigating life after a stroke

You may feel like a ship lost at sea, but you’re not alone — there’s someone charting a course for you.

If you’ve ever been in the hospital, you know a lot of information comes your way when you’re headed home. There’s paperwork to sign, prescriptions to fill, appointments to make, instructions to go over, symptoms to watch out for and the list goes on.

Even when you’ve got a family member with you, it’s hard to remember everything. And not remembering can be dangerous, especially for people who have had a stroke.

Research shows that nearly 70 percent of people who have had a stroke do not understand their medication or care plan. Since stroke patients are at a higher risk for having another stroke, it’s incredibly important that they follow their doctor’s orders.

That’s where Brittny Wannemuehler, R.N., comes in. The former intensive care unit nurse is now a stroke nurse navigator. Within seven days of a stroke patient’s hospital discharge, Wannemuehler is in touch with them, usually by phone, making sure they understand their recovery and everything is going according to plan. That includes making sure patients know:


  • Signs and symptoms of a stroke
  • When to call 911 
  • How to reduce their stroke risk factors, such as not smoking and lowering their cholesterol
  • What medications they’re taking and why
  • To make follow-up appointments with their primary care physician and specialists
  • Where to find resources such as financial assistance, support groups, and diet and exercise classes


There’s no “one size fits all” when it comes to what Wannemuehler does. She’s found housing for homeless patients, smoking cessation classes for patients whose insurance won’t cover it, and primary care physicians for those who just moved to the area or do not have one.

Char Brucek, whose 63-year-old husband, Ed, is recovering from a stroke, calls Brittny “amazing, her life line and an angel.”

Brucek says her husband’s stroke was petrifying but that Brittny walked them through the recovery process while they found their way to a new life.

“Sometimes people just need to feel like they have someone they can contact and that they are not alone,” Wannemuehler said.

Three years into her role as a nurse navigator, Wannemuehler realizes that while she may not be “hands on” saving lives in the ICU, she is still making a difference. Saving a life means helping a patient get back to truly living and finding their purpose in life. She is giving patients the knowledge and support they need so that they do not suffer another stroke.

For more information about stroke recovery resources or the stroke nurse navigator program, visit the Norton Neuroscience Institute Resource Center webpage or call (502) 559-3230.

Want to learn how to lower your chance of having a stroke? Take a free online risk assessment.

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