On May 29, twenty-year-old Ursa Meyer suffered a severe stroke. She had just finished up an online music lesson with a client when her boyfriend noticed the signs of a stroke and called an ambulance. She was rushed to the Ottawa Civic Hospital, where they found that she had suffered a hemorrhagic stroke in the internal capsule, the area of the brain that coordinates movement. “It was entirely unexpected to put it mildly,” says her mother Glenna Hunter. “She was perfectly healthy.” As soon as Glenna knew what was happening, she drove into Ottawa from their home in Oxford Mills to see Ursa. On her way, she was told she would not be able to visit due to COVID-19 restrictions. However, as soon as she started driving home again, she got a call from the doctor saying they were making an exception.
“It was both exactly what a mother wants to hear, and exactly not what a mother wants to hear,” Glenna says.
Ursa was kept in the ICU over the weekend to make sure she kept breathing, and was transferred to a neuro acute care unit for two days. Glenna says that, at that point, Ursa was responsive, but her speech was severely affected and she was completely paralyzed on the right side. “She would get one or two words out and we would guess what she wanted to say,” she says. “She was in good humour”.
Eventually, Ursa was transferred to Élisabeth Bruyère Hospital, where they have a special program for stroke recovery. While no one will give them a definite prognosis, all the specialists are surprised about how fast Ursa is recovering. “It was a very big thing that happened in her brain,” Glenna says. “She is making faster progress than people anticipated.”
Glenna told the doctors to focus her therapy on music, which runs deep in her blood. Even when she couldn’t name animals on flash cards, she could still name all the notes on a scale. “Music is a big motivating factor for her,” Glenna says. “She would rather regain the ability to play viola, than regain the ability to walk.”
Ursa just finished her third year in music performance at the University of Ottawa and is determined to be able to go back to school in the Fall. That being said, she will still need a lot of rehab after she is discharged from the hospital, especially if she wants to be able to perform at the level she was at before. “OHIP will pay for a certain chunk, but certainly not everything,” Glenna says.
Glenna and Ursa play in a trio called Fiddlehead Soup, and the third member, Doug Hendry, decided to set up a fundraiser to help pay for Ursa’s rehab. Ursa had written and started recording a song called “What happens when”, before she had her stroke, and Doug decided to finish producing it and offer it online for a minimum $1 donation to help with Ursa’s care. The song is about the end of a relationship, but the chorus says, “but I love you still the same”. The song was officially launched during the Canada Day celebrations in North Grenville, and it is now available for download on Fiddlehead Soup’s website. The outpouring of support from the community has been amazing. Ursa is known by everyone in the music community in North Grenville, as many of them have watched her grow up. “This is the sort of thing that shows you what kind of a community we live in.”
Glenna is hopeful that Ursa will be able to return to her beloved music once again. Her goal is to one day play in a professional orchestra, and wants to do her Masters in Performance at Ottawa U. While there is no doubt that Ursa is struggling with this setback, Glenna says that she definitely has the work ethic to realize her dreams, even with the uncertainty that lies before her. “She has the drive to accomplish difficult things. She has done that all her life and she can apply that to what she is doing now.”
In a post on her Facebook page, Glenna shows her determination. “Hey, many of you know by now that I have had a stroke,” she wrote. “I just wanted to let you know that I am not letting it get me down, and I’m gonna kick its butt.”
To support Ursa in her recovery, you can download her song at www.fiddleheadsoup.com. All the money received from the purchase of any Fiddlehead Soup album will also be used for Ursa’s care. If there is any extra money after paying for Ursa’s rehab costs, it will be donated to help others who are recovering from stroke.