Former professional dancer engages creative side in recovery after stroke


(WTNH) — At the age of 45, Paula Gallagher made a career change from professional dancer to nurse. Twenty-three years later, dance means more to her than ever after suffering a stroke just last December.

“Dance is my medicine,” Gallagher said. Gallagher didn’t lose her ability to do physical things. She danced as soon as she was able to get out of bed following her stroke.

But while she could dance, Gallagher couldn’t express herself. “I couldn’t say anything. Nothing.”

From Yale New Haven Hospital, Gallagher was sent to Gaylord Hospital in Wallingford. Right away, she worked with Darielle Cooper, an in-patient speech-language pathologist.

In her perspective, Cooper said she tries to make therapy sessions as patient-centered and functionally-driven as possible.

“Meaning, ‘how will this therapy apply to their day to day life?’” Cooper explained.

Gallagher said she danced every day, but still couldn’t write, or speak. She has made great strides. But, before that, it was Cooper who thought of making collages as a way for Gallagher to express herself. Gallagher saw this as a way to incorporate her day-to-day activities into the therapy.

“A couple of years ago I took a collage workshop. But, I didn’t think about it. But, I really loved it.” Gallagher said.

“Any way that I can get somebody to communicate the things they want to say, that’s their daily needs…I love you or Happy Birthday to somebody”, Cooper said. “Even if it’s as simple as that. It’s the nature of humanity is communication. So, it means everything to me. That’s what we work for.”

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