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A stroke can change a person’s life very quickly

Shelley Slykhuis reflects on the impact a stroke has had on her life in the past few years.
Shelley Slykhuis still smiles after she had her stroke three years ago, but said it changed her life completely.

CARLYLE - Shelley Slykhuis had always lived a busy life having six kids, helping her husband David on the farm and volunteering.

She enjoyed being busy and loved life being involved in the Carlyle Catholic Church, the Dicken’s Village Festival Theatre, the lunch program at the Gordon F. Kell high school and being head cook at the Kenosee Boys and Girls camp. It was a fulfilling life.

Slykhuis was a girl guider for 22 years, catering for 18 years and Dicken’s for 20 years, the list goes on.

On June 20, 2011, she had an issue with her heart. It began to beat wonky, as she said, and she was short on breath.

Deep breathing, like when a woman is in labour helped ease the irregular heart beat and breathing. Slykhuis became extremely tired once the episode left and needed to sleep it off.

She found out that she had Atrial Fibrillation (Afib). This causes the upper chamber of the heart to beat extremely fast, and in Slyhuis’s case the lower chamber beats slowly.

Having this condition increased her risk of having a stroke.

The first time it happened she ended up in Regina Hospital and the second time took her to the Arcola Hospital.

In 2020 Slykhuis had two Afib attacks, each lasting about 20 minutes, once they subsided, she became tired and slept them off.

She continued with her busy schedule and remained in her volunteer roles, but this was going to change.

The week before her stroke was terribly busy. They had a wedding on the farm and the following day was clean up and she did not slow down.

On July 12, 2021, at 3 a.m. Slykhuis remembers waking up on her bedroom floor with her husband at her side. He was trying to get her on the bed, and in the meantime, he called his son for help and the ambulance.

She does not remember anything before this and said, “I was very spaced out,” although she thought it was an Afib attack.

The ambulance took her to Estevan. From there she was taken by plane to Saskatoon for a special ultra sound testing on her heart and lungs.

Through this testing they felt she could go to Regina. Her first three days she did nothing but sleep, and David remained with her while their children looked after things at home.

Slykhuis remained in Regina for 11 days before they released her to go home.

She came home to a clean house that her kids had taken care of, and a ramp was placed outside.

They already had the ramp and a medical chair from a family member who had lived with them, and they cared for them before she passed away.

The stroke affected her walking, and she could barely walk from the kitchen table to the sink without being exhausted.

She could not make meals as this tired her out as well. Slykhuis could begin the meal but half way through needed to sit down.

Since her stroke, Slykhuis has needed two knee replacements, and although the first one went well, she feels the second is going much slower.

She has had to quit a lot of things that she loved and now is mostly retired, not by choice.

Using a walker to get around the house, she can do things as long as she is able to sit down and do them.

“I cooked for the first 40 years of our marriage, it is now David’s turn,” she said.

Once being able to bake all morning is now done a little at a time. She explained that when she is baking cookies, she will mix the ingredients and then has to rest. She will put them on the tray and rest again, they go in the oven and when done, she is done too.

Slykhuis has started to go to church every week again and has gone out for supper a couple of times, and even had her hair done but it easily tired her out.

The last six months has been difficult for Slykhuis as she is tired of having these issues, but she knows that this is her life now.

Stepping back to look after her health was difficult for her, but it was needed.

It is her hope to be able to go on a nice warm vacation in January and it is a goal that she is looking forward to.