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Our Story: Tom and Kim Cariveau

by Pamela M. on Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Tom and Kim Cariveau North Dakota

During National Family Caregivers Month, we recognize that caregivers have to take care of themselves to take care of their loved ones, despite the many roles they play. We are honored to recognized Kim and Tom Cariveau for their courage and willingness to share their experience with others in order to help improve outcomes for survivors of stroke. 

In November of 2007, Tom, age 50, suffered a stroke while working as a physician in a clinic. Thankfully, he was at the right place at the right time and received the immediate care he needed to minimize the impact of his stroke. The cause of Tom’s stroke is still unknown, but it left him unable to speak and within hours of being admitted to the hospital, he was diagnosed with aphasia, a language impairment affecting his ability to communicate.  

Tom went through a six-week therapy program at the University of Michigan in an intensive aphasia program. When he came home, he continued therapy, including many hours at the UND Speech and Hearing clinic. It wasn’t long before Tom started recruiting other people who had suffered from a stroke to take part in weekly conversation groups.  Tom appeared at gatherings of medical students and at service clubs to share his experience.  At first, his wife Kim spoke for him, but as he gradually regained speaking ability he began to tell his story himself.  Tom and Kim helped facilitate a grant proposal to secured funding through the state department of health for a reading group to help other patients. 

Tom still receives 20 to 25 hours of intensive therapy each week. He participates in group therapy and he and recruits people with aphasia and other speech disorders to join their group.

After years of therapy, Tom can speak with minimal verbal and gesture prompting.  Bringing the kind of therapy that Tom received in Michigan to stroke survivors in North Dakota has had a significant impact on stroke victims in North Dakota and Minnesota.  Tom and Kim continue to reach out to other stroke survivors and caregivers to share their experience and provide meaningful support. 

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