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Prominent businesswoman, community stalwart makes recovery from stroke her mission

Armeather Gibbs is well-known in Rhode Island, both for her passion for community empowerment and her career in banking, non-profits, and government. She felt like nothing could slow her down until suffering a stroke in 2016.

Armeather says a stroke “was the furthest thing from my mind” that day in November, but recalls she didn’t feel like herself. The next day, during a visit to a shoe store, her left foot felt odd. When she returned home, she felt no pain but while walking, realized she was unintentionally leaning against a wall for balance. It was later, while typing at the computer, that she realized something was wrong. The words on the screen were jumbled; one of her hands was not working correctly as she typed.

Her son called the rescue and tests showed she had suffered a mild stroke. While in the hospital, she was hit with a second stroke. After a one week hospital stay, she was given a choice of facilities for inpatient rehabilitation. She chose Southern New England Rehabilitation Center (SNERC), primarily because it was closest to her home in Providence. This random choice turned out to be an important one for Armeather and her recovery. She describes the care she received at SNERC as “extremely great.”

“It was the best decision I could have made,” she says. “I lived here for two months.”

When she first arrived at SNERC, she couldn’t walk and was essentially confined to her bed. With the guidance of SNERC’s staff, she was determined to get better. “They were great at explaining everything, including what the expectations were,” says Armeather. “It was the personal touch of the staff that really made the difference.”

Following her discharge, Armeather transitioned to eight months of outpatient therapy at SNERC’s office on Mineral Spring Avenue in North Providence. Today, Armeather is walking with a cane and occasionally using an assistive device like a walker for longer trips. While she still has goals to improve the movement in her left arm and leg, she sees herself as being miles ahead of where she was following her stroke.

At the holiday party that SNERC hosts every December for members of its stroke support group, Armeather recalls that she was here as an inpatient last year. She said the support group is helpful in terms of information and resources shared. “I still come,” Armeather says. “It motivates you and you get to see how others have recuperated.”

Armeather also has high praise for her family and friends who helped her. This past summer, her friends coaxed her into joining them on their annual trip to Martha’s Vineyard. Armeather, who always looks to contribute, was upset that she couldn’t help pack the car or be part of the other preparations for the trip. In the end, she had a great time and was pleased to be at a point in her recovery where she could travel and enjoy a vacation.

She looks forward to the next steps in her journey and says her recovery has taught her a valuable lesson. “A stroke is life changing in so many ways but you learn about all the things you took for granted before. That’s an important lesson to carry.”