Sewing has been an important part of Marie Rosenau’s life for about as long as she can remember. Her mother and grandmother taught her to sew when she was not even 10 years old.
“My mom was a seamstress and she was awesome and I would drive her crazy with my sewing,” Rosenau said. “She would go without patterns and I had to read every word of the instructions.”
The first quilt that Rosenau put together on her own is one of the most special, she said, because it is the only one her mom was able to see before she died. Another quilt – one the 57-year-old Terrebonne resident made for her son when he went away to school – is special because it came back to her when she needed it most.
After suffering a debilitating stroke in March 2014, Rosenau spent time at St. Charles Bend and at a rehabilitation hospital in Portland before coming back to Redmond for additional care at a skilled nursing facility. It was there that her son put his quilt on her bed to give her comfort and inspiration.
“They can tell me that I can’t clean anymore,” said Rosenau, who worked as housekeeping supervisor at Whispering Winds retirement community before her stroke. “But sewing is something that I just had to try. It’s been such a part of me for such a long time.”
Thanks to months of rehab and an indefatigable spirit, she has learned to quilt using just one hand. Her left side is impaired from the stroke, but thanks to special clamps she is able to hold material steady. With her right hand she can use a rotary cutter and her sewing machine. She is working on hand stitching, which has been the most difficult sewing task to master.
Gwen Jones, an occupational therapist at St. Charles Outpatient Rehabilitation in Redmond, has helped Rosenau research tools and techniques for one-handed quilting.
“I think that Marie has been so successful because she has been flexible and adaptable,” Jones said. “She has chosen to redefine her life within her current disabilities. She hasn’t wanted to wait until she’s better to start back to living her life. Hers is a story of physical healing, but more importantly, emotional and psychological healing.”
Although she has not been able to return to her former position at Whispering Winds, she is back to working two days a week as the resident relations coordinator, which includes working with the quilting group she began called Sew and Tell. When she’s not quilting, she also makes brightly colored pillowcases for an organization that donates them to children with cancer.
“When I feel bad about my situation, I make a pillowcase and think about the kids,” she said.
Serving as an inspiration to other stroke survivors is important to Rosenau – especially those who are at the beginning of their rehabilitation and are feeling sad about their situations.
“If I can do something to encourage somebody else, I want to do it,” she said. “I’m impaired right now, but I’m going for 100 percent.”