3.5 min readPublished On: April 16, 2024

Stroke Support in The Villages Shares Recovery and Recreation Information

After starting the meeting and directing the introductions, Bette Lou had to correct one of the newcomers. “You’re not allowed to use the word victim,” Bette Lou says. “I had my stroke 45 years ago, and the first thing I learned was that we’re survivors.”

Survivors and their caregivers not only support each other through these informational meetings, but they also socialize together. Fran reminded the group to sign up for the up-coming bowling outing.

“They have adaptive devices for people in chairs, and we play eight pins is a strike,” Fran explains. “The event will last an hour and a half and include pizza and soda.”

Members of The Villages stroke support group gathered on this particular day to hear a presentation about a promising new device that could aid their recovery. The FDA recently approved a device that can be implanted to stimulate the vagus nerve, improving upper extremity function in stroke survivors.

Latest Breakthrough

In March, Tampa General Hospital was the first in the region to implant the Vivistim® device to improve upper body functioning for a stroke survivor. Terri Stemple from MicroTransponder presented the information to the support group and then patiently answered questions.

The Vivistim® is a small device implanted just beneath the skin under the collarbone. The transponder is attached to the vagus nerve on the left side of the neck. Paired with a customized rehabilitation program, the device helps strengthen neuropathways that improve hand and arm function.

The device is only approved for ischemic stroke survivors who are able to participate in the rehabilitation exercises. Research shows the Vivistim® can be equally effective for patients of all ages and all timeframes from the stroke event, offering hope of improved functioning to many.

The Vivistim® device is activated by remote control during therapy sessions. Between sessions, patients are encouraged to activate the device with a magnet for 30 minutes of nerve stimulation while they perform their home exercises.

The Social Support Web

Mike is a retiree from Milwaukee wearing a bright smile and a stroke camp t-shirt. “Stroke camp is a weekend to do whatever you want. And what’s really fun is that unlike here in The Villages, you meet stroke survivors from all different age groups,” Mike explains.

Retreat and Refresh, sponsored by Mission Health, is the camp Mike and his wife Fran attend in western North Carolina. Two years ago, one other person from The Villages stroke support group attended with them. Last year, there were four couples, and this year Mike expects at least six couples from the support group to go to stroke camp with him and Fran.

Support groups are important to Mike and other stroke survivors. He says it’s all about meeting other people who are going through the same things you are. Mike is a bit of a support group junky. He once attended a group in Tampa that takes cruises together, and yes, you guessed it, he went on one of their cruises.

John is also a stroke survivor living in The Villages, but he is new to this stroke support group. His wife, Sue, read about a special implant for stroke rehabilitation in an AARP newsletter in November. John had the Vivistim® device implanted in early March.

John and Sue met Kay and her husband, Steve, on one of the walking paths in The Villages. Stroke survivors tend to be easy to spot, and the two couples got talking about John’s implant. Now, Steve is preparing to get his implant in several weeks. Kay, a member of the stroke support group, invited John and Sue to attend the meeting where the Vivistim® representative, Terri, would be talking about the implant. John and Sue were already acquainted with Terri and agreed to come.

To learn more about the stroke support groups and activities in The Villages, stop by one of these meetings:

Stroke Support Fun & Games

2nd and 4th Saturday monthly


Tierra Del Sol Rec Center (352) 753-4412


Stroke Support

4th Thursday monthly


Laurel Manor Rec Center (352) 751-7110


Stroke Support for Caregivers

1st Thursday monthly


Lake Miona Rec Center (352) 430-2950


About the Author: Christine Andola

Christine Andola
With a bachelor’s degree in communication from the State University of New York, College at New Paltz, in 1990 Christine embarked on a blind journey to building a career. She moved through teaching in the inner city public schools, reporting for a weekly newspaper, writing user manuals and technical documentation at a software company, lobbying and public relations at the state level for national associations and marketing for professional services firms. Christine’s writing portfolio includes everything from newspapers to grant proposals. She has developed web content, written blogs, ghost-written professional journal articles and drafted ad copy. From technical writing to lifestyle feature pieces, Christine lives by the value of words. She enjoys learning about the people around her and sharing information in a way that resonates with readers.

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