When Marjorie Guindon’s little dog aroused her from sleep on a Sunday morning last June, she thought she was experiencing vertigo. By the time her son arrived, she was in partial paralysis from a stroke. Thanks to rehabilitation and determination, less than five months later, the Miramichi woman has almost fully recovered.

Marjorie Guindon of Miramichi is a social butterfly; kind, outgoing and a lover of laughter. Friends and family are central to her life.

The recent retiree was born in Happy Valley-Goose Bay Labrador. A military wife, she has lived in a patchwork of Canadian communities from coast to coast to coast.

During her working years, she managed a CANEX military department store. Her passion is connecting with friends at a local restaurant for breakfast or at the local quilt guild. They meet on Tuesday nights to discuss the nuts and bolts of the organization. Thursdays, it’s needles and thread, stitching together blocks of fabric that will eventually become beautiful quilts to be presented to a local charity.

Giving back has become even more meaningful to her since her recovery from a sudden and unexpected stroke earlier in the year.

June 9, 2019 was a Sunday-a perfect sleep-in day. That was what 62-year-old Marjorie and her husband Gilles had hoped for, but their little dog had apparently not been notified of the plans. Nature called, and Pixie needed an escort to the back yard to do her business. She awoke the sleeping family and Marjorie, half awake, did the honours.


Afterward, Marjorie experienced some dizziness. She told Gilles she thought she might be having vertigo and that she would lie down until it passed. Gilles was concerned, but Marjorie assured him she would be okay. A few minutes later, Marjorie felt something just didn’t seem right.

Marjorie asked Gilles, “Why don’t you call Chris, just in case?”

Chris, their only son, lives a short distance away.

“By the time Christopher got here I was completely paralyzed on the left side–it happened that fast,” she remembered.

Chris, alarmed at his mother’s condition, immediately dialed 911 and a crew from Ambulance New Brunswick arrived quickly. Marjorie remembers thinking, “I’m a big woman…how will they ever get me downstairs?”

The paramedics reassured Marjorie as they placed her in a special wheelchair and apparatus to safely roll her downstairs to the waiting ambulance.


Upon arrival at Horizon’s Miramichi Regional Hospital (MRH), Marjorie was whisked to the neurology department to be connected with a neurologist via the Telestroke Network.

The Telestroke Network is a partnership with Horizon, Vitalité Health Network, the Department of Health, and the Heart and Stroke Foundation. The technology means Emergency Departments (EDs) can connect with neurologists off-site, saving precious time. When a patient arrives experiencing signs of stroke without a specialist onsite, their CAT scan can be seen instantly by a neurologist elsewhere using Telestroke technology.

Horizon’s Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital (DECRH) in Fredericton handled Telestroke coverage on June 9.

When Marjorie arrived at MRH, Dr. Muhammad Shafiq was contacted in Fredericton and saw her through the Telestroke computer, quickly assessed her condition and had Marjorie treated with a drug known as tPA – tissue plasminogen activator. This drug, commonly called a “clot buster,” dissolves blood clots and must be administered within the first four-and-a-half hours after the onset of stroke symptoms. The quicker it is administered, the more effective it is.

“We give the clot buster as an initial step but then if it’s a big large clot with no improvement we transfer the patient to Saint John,” said Dr. Shafiq. “If there is a large clot, we transfer the patient to Saint John pretty quick and they do a clot retrieval.”



“So, time is of the essence for sure,” said Marjorie. “I think if I wasn’t there that fast or my son didn’t know the signs, it could have been worse because there was no pain.” 

The tPA treatment was administered but it would require surgery to completely remove the clot. Although she remembers nothing about the ambulance ride to Saint John, she felt reassured during her time there.

“When I got there, oh my gosh, they were good,” said Marjorie. “I was never really afraid because everybody was so calm, and they treated me so well and explained everything as it was happening.”

Shortly after her arrival, a surgeon made an incision in her groin to search out and successfully retrieve the clot near the base of the right side of her brain.

Once the medical team stabilized her, Marjorie was sent back by ambulance to the Critical Care Unit at MRH to recover. In short order, she was assigned to Occupational Therapist (OT) Jeff Savage to begin her six weeks of rehabilitation.


Jeff has spent 14 years as an OT, most of it working with clients who have suffered strokes. Many, like Marjorie, are frightened and unsure of their health situation and what the future holds. He builds relationships with each one, calming their fears and encouraging them of the gains expected throughout the process. The outcomes are much better when the client is active in their care and has support from friends and family, like Marjorie had.

“She was willing to participate and work hard in her therapy right from the get-go,” said Jeff. “Anything you gave her to help her get better, she would practice it and tell you how she did.”


He describes her as kind and outgoing, a woman with strong family ties and one who laughs a lot. Despite her happy countenance, the effects of the stroke made her what Jeff calls, “labile”, meaning she had trouble controlling her emotions. The two would joke about it whenever it occurred.

“She would get tearful but laugh and say, ‘I’m not really crying, it’s just part of the stroke’,” remembered Jeff. “So, I would reassure her that that was a common part of recovery after a stroke.”


Her son Christopher visited frequently, often accompanying his mom during her physiotherapy. Even Pixie, her 14-year-old dog who may have saved her life, was allowed in for social calls.

“They let me bring her in and Christopher would have her in with me and he’d come and take me outside for walks,” she said. “They were always so accommodating.”

Today, Marjorie’s life is not all that different than it was before the stroke. She is back socializing with her friends and has returned to stitching fabric into patterns with the quilt guild.

The only difference is she is not yet as independent as she was pre-stroke.

“I have to rely on everybody else, but I’m really lucky with my friends here and my son and my husband,” she said. “Before, I would probably be picking them up but now they come get me.”


Marjorie learned it is OK to rely on other people for awhile but would never take advantage of their kindness. Her experience has helped her be more appreciative of the little things in life, like waking up in the morning to go outside and to meet with friends.

“Like the other day I made fresh blueberry muffins which I didn’t think I’d be doing for a long time,” she said. “I felt really proud I was able to do it all alone and my husband was quite tickled by it.”

It has also helped her better appreciate the health care system and the people within it who helped her back to health.

“Until you’re in there living it, you don’t realize how hard these people work and how much they put into it,” she said. “We’ve been in hospitals from BC to Labrador and I’ve never had such amazing hospital experiences as we had here.”


Should anyone begin to experience sudden signs of stroke, Marjorie advises calling 911 immediately.

The symptoms include numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body, confusion, trouble speaking or understanding, blurred vision in one or both eyes, trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.

When it comes to recovery, Marjorie believes stroke patients should trust the experts because they know what they’re doing.

“A big part of the recovery is to work with them,” she said. “They can guide you, but you have to do the work.” She refers to the occupational therapy department as “a big cheering system.”

Marjorie’s friends have taken on the role of the cheering system, now. They drop in for coffee or take her out for breakfast or to visit friends. And there’s no keeping Marjorie from her quilting, especially knowing her efforts are a way of giving back.

“We do charity quilts where everybody has to make a block, even though I can’t do what I did before,” Marjorie said. “One of the girls just cut it out for me because I find that quite hard yet-it’s a little shaky, but it will come.”


One’s experiences are like collections of individual shapes and colours of fabric, woven into our lives like needle and thread into a quilt. Each experience, each block, while not as beautiful on its own, combine to form a finished work of splendour. Marjorie’s experience is now a part of the fabric of her life that has only made her stronger.

She’s more appreciative of friends and family and especially the medical professionals, both those who saved her life and the ones who helped return it to what it once was. Recently, she dropped by 1 East, Rehabilitation Department at MRH to say hello and to thank the staff and nurses.

“Everyone was there, and everyone was really happy,” she said. “It felt like a family returning … it felt so good.”