Hope and Resilience at Aspen Lake

Since moving to Aspen Lake, Kathy MacEachern’s growth has been remarkable

By Kristian Partington

A year ago, Matthew MacEachern’s wife, Kathryn, was barely connected to the world around her. The compounding effects of a brain tumor that was first operated on 15 years ago when Kathy was only 30 had taken a great toll. The tumor had robbed her of sight and short-term memory, and a daily cocktail of various medications had conspired to close her deeper within herself.  

While awaiting a room of her own at the Village of Aspen Lake, Kathy was living in a transition home in Windsor where there was little to stimulate, engage or inspire her. She was barely eating and hardly responsive to anything anyone did or said. Matt used to walk with her every day, but she continued to worsen and it seemed there was little that could be done, yet Matt saw a direct correlation between increased medication use – primarily to defend against potential seizures – and Kathy’s decline.

“Never give up hope,” is something Matt often says to his wife and they never have.  Over the past 15 years, they’ve certainly had great challenges to overcome, and this downturn was simply another to surmount. When Kathy moved to Aspen Lake last summer, Matt voiced his concerns over the medication use with the team and doctors, and the entire regimen was reassessed, ultimately reducing the use of the anti-seizure drugs.

“Ever since then, she started to come around,” Matt says. Today, the signs of improvement are remarkable. She’s eating on her own and her entire thought process continues to improve, allowing her to participate more fully in conversation. Her sense of humour rears itself, at times, and the restorative walking program with Lisa Ferrante and Torey Gault of the physiotherapy team is slowly helping her regain her energy, which is key to her continued improvement.

“She’ll always be tired because of the brain injury, the surgery, the tumor and the medications,” Matt says, “but if she can get stronger, I think the more blood flow to the brain gives her more oxygen and more energy.”

It’s a cycle towards better overall well being, and Matt has his sights set on once again walking with his wife under the warmth of the sun, once the weather allows for it. For now, he’s simply encouraged by the steady improvement he sees every day, and the team at Aspen Lake is committed to continued growth.

Kinesiologist Jake Corrent has worked closely with Kathy since he began working at the village last summer and, like Matt, he is equally encouraged by the improvements he sees. He says he, and the rest of the team, will do all they can to keep things moving in a positive direction, working together with Matt and Kathy to help them reach their goals.

“It’s something that we don’t see all the time but when it happens, it just makes our job so fulfilling,” Jake says as he thinks about Kathy’s progress. “It’s a huge leap forward.”

When asked what advice he might offer to others who are advocating for their loved ones, Matt repeats the phrase he often says to Kathy.

“Never give up hope,” he says. “You also cannot accept the status quo.” With the right support behind you, there’s always room for growth.