Former La Hacienda Collegiate Program counselor Amy DuCharme holds the design she created for Reunion 2020.
Amy DuCharme (Madrid) had just arrived at her Kerrville home that hot August 2017 day following her shift as a women’s collegiate counselor at La Hacienda.
“I was home about 10 minutes. My partner, Lee, had also come home. He said something to me, and I put my hands up on my head because it suddenly hurt and I blacked out,” she recalls.
She had suffered a massive stroke.
Amy regained consciousness in a San Antonio hospital, to find herself in a four-point restraint and utterly terrified. She could not speak or write, and her right side was paralyzed.
The reason for the restraints became evident as she learned how first Lee and then a doctor at Methodist Hospital acted quickly to save her life and minimize the stroke’s damage.
Gradually she became aware of medical people standing around her. Then she saw her partner Lee, her brother and finally her mother.
“Of course, I whaled or some sort of horrific sound came out of my mouth!” she recalls.
Finding Grace in Recovery
Amy—who had worked 18 years at La Hacienda helping people recover from addiction—was faced at age 45 with recuperating from a major medical crisis.
“My whole life turned upside-down,” she says.
She spent a month in the hospital, then five weeks in extended care.
“I didn’t want to go into extended care, but Lee said, ‘What do you tell your girls when you counsel them to go to extended care?’ I knew then I had to go.”
She received excellent care in speech, occupational and physical therapy. “Everybody was so kind and helpful.”
That is why Amy has GRACE tattooed on her right shoulder. “That’s there because I have had such grace around me during this whole experience.”
Stroke recovery is a long road, but she looks forward to speaking normally, having more of her physical ability return, and, most importantly, getting her mind back on track.
Making a New Life
In the meantime, Amy’s not sitting around; she is busy building a new life. She volunteers at the Dietert Center in Kerrville, helping seniors. She bakes cakes for Lee’s restaurant.
And she has discovered something new in herself – a talent for drawing and making art. This new gift is her passion now.
She learned while in the hospital that art is very therapeutic and good for healing the brain. She works in multi-media and is in the process of converting a guest bedroom into a studio.
Amy misses counseling young women–“my girls,” she calls them.
She says she didn’t teach them to be sober. “I taught them to have self-respect and self-esteem.”
Director of Clinical Services Janet Blackburn affirms that connection.
“As a counselor, Amy had a remarkable gift for reaching collegiate-age women. She is genuine, and she stands her ground.”
Her ‘Girls’ Respond
Amy says part of recovering from the stroke involves having to build a new identity. “My identity was built upon working with my girls. They meant everything to me.”
The feeling is mutual; her “girls” love Amy.
After her stroke, one former patient even snuck into her room at the hospital to see her.
“My speech therapist said that when I saw my visitor, I stopped in my tracks, lit up, and we embraced and cried.”
Through her new love of art, Amy is reconnecting with La Hacienda.
“[Director of Business Development] Elizabeth Olson called and asked me to do the artwork for the Reunion 2020 t-shirts. I was astounded. I said, ‘Yes, I’m on it!’”
Amy shared eight possible images with the Reunion planning team. Together they chose one that relates both to the year 2020 (and the natural connection to perfect vision) and the Reunion theme: “The most satisfactory years of your existence lie ahead.” (Big Book, p. 152)
“Having Amy be a part of the Reunion 2020 design is really the essence about what La Hacienda is: second chances, hope, helping each other and creating new life,” says Elizabeth.
UPDATE-Reunion 2020 will not be held out of caution related to novel coronavirus.