Malinda Jowers was preparing to go on her first trip to Africa when she suffered a stroke in August 2011.

Shortly after the stroke, she found that people had a hard time understanding what she was saying.

“You could hear me,” said Jowers, a former teacher and program supervisor for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools. “That wasn’t the problem. The problem was I knew what I wanted to say to you, but I couldn’t.”

She recalled the time she was eating out with her husband and asked a waitress for more gravy, but the waitress brought her something totally different.

“I thought I was saying “gravy,” but I was saying “rice,” Jowers said.

Over the years, she said, she has improved by getting therapy through different organizations.

For the past year, she has participated in programs at Carolina Center for Cognitive Rehabilitation, known as CCCR, at 1495 Rymco Drive. CCCR, a nonprofit organization, provides cognitive rehabilitation therapy aimed at helping people regain and develop functional skills they have lost as a result of stroke or head injury.

“What excited me was they had a reading group,” Jowers said. “I knew that was something I needed to do — re-learn to read. Then I realized they did a whole lot more than reading.”

She especially likes the group sessions.

“I’m not alone,” Jowers said. “All these other people are around, and I’ve learned from them.”

Cognitive skill areas that CCCR focuses on include concentration and attention, decision making, math skills, memory, problem solving, social skills, verbal language, visual processing and written language.

CCCR offers a variety of customized interventions, programs and activities. They include family education and support network, customized cognitive rehabilitation therapy, peer training, group sessions, community-based small group projects, pre-work skills development, creative arts, and university/student training opportunities.

Aphasia, a disorder that affects communication, has become the organization’s niche.

CCCR will hold a free seminar for people living with stroke and those who care for them from 2 to 5 p.m. on Sunday at First Presbyterian Church at 300 N. Cherry St.

Robin Embry, CCCR’s founder and executive director, and a cognitive rehabilitation specialist, said her organization’s mission is to improve overall life for its participants. She wants CCCR to be similar to a community center.

“We don’t want it to be so ridden in medical stuff, because they’re not sick,” Embry said of participants. “They need practice. They need confidence building. They need the opportunity to see that it can get better.”

While the CCCR relies on private and corporate sponsorships to help offset its regular operating costs, it does not deny qualified applicants people access to its services if they cannot pay full rates.

Participants must meet several criteria in order to participate in CCCR services. For example, people must have a diagnosed acquired brain injury, be at least 16, be drug and alcohol free, and have reliable transportation.

Embry said that transportation tends to be the biggest obstacle for some participants. Her hope is that eventually CCCR can set up satellite work groups in different communities that are run by graduates of the program.

For more than 25 years, Embry has worked with children, adolescents and adults who have stroke and brain injuries. Her jobs ranged from a music therapist to a cognitive rehabilitation specialist.

Embry spent 17 years running a program for cognitive and supported employment services at Whitaker Rehabilitation, a Novant Health rehabilitation center, primarily helping people develop memory and thinking skills so they could go back to work.

When the program closed in 2010, Embry believes she went into career crisis. She decided to try her hand at pet photography.

At the same time, families of college-age students she had just started working with at Whitaker Rehabilitation requested that she help them find other avenues for help.

“It was hard to leave the people because at that stage in their rehab there are no other resources,” Embry said. “People have trouble getting access to services once traditional rehabilitation ends. They are just left out in the middle of nowhere. They can’t make that bridge back to independence because there’s no help.”

She started North Carolina Center for Cognitive Rehabilitation LLC in July 2011. The organization became a nonprofit in November 2013 and changed its name to Carolina Center for Cognitive Rehabilitation Inc.

Today, Embry basically runs CCCR with one part-time staff member, Bud Ervin, and seven volunteers. She also gets a lot of help from her husband, Ron.

“Now, I take pictures of pets for fun,” Embry said.

Want to know more?

Organization: The Carolina Center for Cognitive Rehabilitation

Type of Organization: A nonprofit organization that provides cognitive rehabilitation therapy aimed at helping people regain and develop functional skills they have lost as a result of stroke or head injury.

Services: CCCR offers a variety of customized interventions, programs and activities.

Price: Rates range from $10 for group sessions to $200 for a monthly plan.

Address: 1495 Rymco Drive, Suite 102, Winston-Salem

Phone No.: (336) 283-9197

Free seminar on Sunday

The Carolina Center for Cognitive Rehabilitation will hold a free seminar titled The Aftermath of Stroke: A community seminar for persons living with stroke and those who care for and about them from 2 to 5 p.m. on Sunday at First Presbyterian Church at 300 N. Cherry St. in Winston-Salem. Speakers include Dr. Cheryl D. Bushnell, director of the Wake Forest Baptist Stroke; Mary Kiger, speech language pathologist for Whitaker Rehabilitation Center; and stroke survivors and caregivers. Free blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose screenings will be provided by Novant Health. R.S.V.P is requested but not required. Email Carolina Center for Cognitive Rehabilitation at cccogrehab@gmail.com or call 336-283-9197.

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