SARATOGA SPRINGS — As the date of May 18 gets closer, halfway through Stroke Awareness Month, Tammy D’ercole is trying to figure out where she’ll first make an appearance in her college graduation robe.
It will most likely be the office of Dr. Seth Wharton, the neurologist on Wells Street who had encouraged D’ercole to obtain a degree after they met several years ago.
The doctor tried, with minimal success, to help D’ercole regain the use of her left arm that was lost in 2006 after she endured a stroke in Pennsylvania. It happened during surgery to remove a benign tumor near her heart.
Still, D’ercole admits, she added Dr. Wharton’s idea to her “bucket list.” Next week, D’ercole will happily cross that degree off her list during a graduation ceremony at Schenectady County Community College, where she has kept herself busy since last year studying the field of human services.
D’ercole had transferred credits from previous college work, and mostly commuted to and from Schenectady by bus. And she plans to pursue further academic studies as well.
D’ercole’s other celebratory destination next Thursday will be the grand opening on High Rock Avenue of the Healing Springs Recovery and Community Outreach Center, which will cater to individuals struggling to conquer alcohol and drug addiction.
She praised the work of Janine Stuchin, executive director of The Prevention Council in the same building, who D’ercole said has been instrumental in supporting the creation of the Healing Springs center.
In March 2015, D’ercole was the subject of an article published by Saratoga TODAY titled, “A Survivor’s Tale,” which expounded at length about how her recovery from the stroke was complicated by her battle with alcoholism. She quit drinking in 2008.
“My stroke was my launch-board into my destiny to live a purposeful life inspiring, teaching others,” the 50-year-old city resident said this week. “It’s a big, big, big thing for me to get awareness out.”
Through her academic research, D’ercole said she found a strong correlation between addiction problems and stroke. She is also concerned that “the average age of stroke victims is plummeting.”
Kara Granato, a spokeswoman for the Brain Injury Association of New York State, could not confirm if medical professionals have made that same conclusion.
Yet Granato left open the possibility that such topics could be discussed at the association’s professional symposium and annual conference, which are scheduled to take place between June 14 and 16 at the Saratoga Springs Holiday Inn.
The symposium is geared more toward medical professionals, Granato said. The scheduled presentations are titled: Brain Injury, Substance Abuse and PTSD; Physiology of Brain Injury; Equine Assisted Therapy and Brain Injury; Headaches after Brain Injury; Treatment Options; Exercise and Brain Injury; Sleep Disorders After TBI (traumatic brain injury); and Physical Therapy Treatment Interventions Using New Technologies.
The annual conference, Granato added, is more open to stroke survivors like D’ercole and family members, who are required to register with the Brain Injury Association ahead of the event.
For more information or to register, visit the website www.bianys.org.