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Unless you’ve lived it, how can you possibly understand the many challenges faced by patients and caregivers during recovery from a stroke? Six caring individuals who have made that journey were recognized in October, when they graduated from the Alvarado Hospital Peer Visitor training program.

The new volunteers received uniforms and specially equipped “peer visitor bags” during the ceremony. Representatives from the American Heart & Stroke Association, Alvarado Hospital staff, physiatrists and family members attended.

The six new volunteers will double the number of Alvarado Hospital volunteers providing this caring support using American Heart and Stroke Association guidelines.

“Learning how to adjust after a stroke can be very difficult. Stroke survivors and caregivers may feel depressed, isolated or overwhelmed by the challenges of their altered lives,” says Mary Williams, CTRS, coordinator of therapeutic recreation, who helped develop the program at Alvarado Hospital in 2004. “The support of someone who has actually had that same experience can make a big difference in the journey to recovery.”

During five-session training program, volunteers learn about stroke facts and warning signs; the physical, cognitive and emotional challenges following stroke; and active listening skills. The peer visitor volunteers also advocate for greater stroke awareness by participating at American Heart & Stroke Association events held at Alvarado Hospital and in the community.

Stroke is the third-leading killer of San Diegans. As one of the region’s foremost centers for treating stroke and providing comprehensive rehabilitation care to stroke survivors and their loved ones, Alvarado Hospital does more than any other local hospital to educate the community about the identification, treatment and recovery of “brain attack.”

All peer visits are held onsite at Alvarado Hospital, and requests are welcomed from community physicians and caregivers. To arrange a peer visit, please call Mary Williams at (619) 229-7362 or e-mail her at