Choreographing an incredible recovery from stroke

While successfully rising in her career, 39-year old professional choreographer Julie Tomaino suffered a series of strokes that left her unable to speak or move.

Getting her life back during her stay in Toronto Rehab’s stroke unit meant two things to Julie: re-learning the skills it takes to choreograph, and gaining the confidence to get back to her craft. Driven by the desire to create a treatment plan that was motivating and meaningful for their patient, Julie's rehab team couldn't resist stepping out of their comfort zone and into the spotlight.

Over a six week period during her recovery, led by Julie, her team planned and rehearsed a dance to the 1980s hit "We Will Rock You" by the band Queen.

"Learning to choreograph again was something I really wanted, and didn't think the team could facilitate," says Julie. "But they supported me fully, and were gung-ho the whole time.”

Julie's creative process gave the gift of hope to other stroke survivors on the unit. One long-term patient, who usually keeps to herself, was encouraged to leave her room and join the audience during a special performance in the 9th floor dining room at Toronto Rehab’s University Centre. Others saw how far she had come, and pushed themselves to stand a little taller, walk a little further, try a little harder.

Read more about Julie’s incredible story at 

Toronto Rehab is home to the number one rehabilitation research centre in the world and is truly Where Incredible Happens. To ensure that the best proven rehabilitation research, technology and care are available to our patients and the community now and in the future, Toronto Rehab has launched a historic $100-million fundraising campaign.

In support of the campaign and the incredible work in stroke rehab, you can be part of a Guinness World Record. Book your bike for Rocket Ride 4 Rehab on October 14, 2017

UHN photo features the Toronto Rehab dance team (clockwise, from top left): physiotherapist Nina Hovanec, rehab therapist Jennifer Shaw, occupational and physiotherapy assistant Mia Cowan, registered nurse Pema Zela, speech-language pathologist Ruth Levin, choreographer Julie Tomaino and occupational therapist Cindy Ho.