Image of Paul Berger working on balcony

August 12, 2021: First news posted to our new improved website

How was your year-and-a-half since the first COVID lockdown in March 2020?

For me, Paul Berger, a stroke survivor, and my wife, Stephanie Mensh, we experienced many ups and downs.  We live in a Maryland suburb of Washington, DC. Like everyone else, we watched new and old TV shows on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Peacock and Washington Nationals baseball games when they returned to play last summer and this season. We had family Zoom calls to celebrate holidays and to say “Hi.” We walked 4 or 5 times a week, 30 to 40 minutes, outside with masks and social distancing around our neighborhood, sometimes on our long balcony, sometimes marching inside.

Before the lockdown, I had physical therapy appointments twice a month to maintain balance and muscle tone, and work on problems. I also attended classes once a week at the Stroke Comeback Center to maintain speech and language skills and connect in person with other stroke survivors.

After the lockdown, I noticed that I needed PT, and was lucky that my physical therapist was able to do half hour sessions on Zoom weekly.  Stephanie helped me with the Zoom camera, with some of the exercises, and recording the sessions so I could practice myself 2 times a week.  Luckily, the Stroke Comeback Center also offered classes on Zoom as well as “happy hours” of free meetings with other members. I participated in 3 classes and 2 happy hours.  This schedule gave me a good routine to stay mentally healthy over the past 18 months.

We had some sad times, too.  Stephanie’s 91-year-old mother caught COVID and passed away.  Stephanie and I also caught COVID but had mild cases and recovered at home.  I lost my sense of smell and some tastes.

Stephanie and I are now fully vaccinated. I am happy that I returned to in-person PT 3 months ago and feel so much better.  And this week, I returned in person to the Stroke Comeback Center.  Last week, we attended a Washington Nationals baseball game in person with friends. The ballpark hamburgers and hotdogs tasted great.


Image of Paul Berger working on Lego model of Lunar Lander

I enjoy building models. Before we moved from our house to an apartment, I built model trains in our basement. Now I build Lego models. I finished a model of the U.S. Lunar Lander, assembling 1,087 Lego pieces.  It’s like a 3-D puzzle and a good challenge for my brain and 1 hand.  To see one like mine, click here.   

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Image of Stephanie Mensh working on laptop on balcony

I’m Stephanie Mensh, Paul’s wife and caregiver, and I also cared for my elderly mother who had lived alone.  Before the COVID lockdown, I was very productive, able to shop, run errands, check off my to-do list and have a coffee break at Starbucks.  After the lockdown, I was the designated shopper, going out twice a week early in the morning in masks and gloves and extra hand sanitizer. I was surprised by how much the pandemic anxiety and stress zapped my energy and how little I was able to accomplish each week.

My greatest fear was the hospital since family was not allowed to help or visit.  I worried about hospital staff not being patient with Paul’s aphasia (speech problems) and mobility challenges, or my mother’s dementia which worsened quickly after the lockdown.

I kept busy with Zoom lectures on science, music, art, medical news, and politics. I watched too much cable TV. My book club moved from monthly dinners to Zoom, allowing us to add some people outside the area.  I attended some of the Stroke Comeback Center’s caregiver Zoom meetings. And I took an 8 week Zoom writing course on humor, very fun!

Now that we’re slowly returning to activities, I’m taking some time to think about what I want to do in this next phase of my life. 

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