Little Victories Every Day
“Stroke rehab [rehabilitation] starts when you’re still in
the hospital”, says Tom Brown, 55, of Morganton. “After my
stroke in February, I learned you have the greatest chance of regaining
your abilities during the first few months after a stroke so I put all
my focus into being a good rehab patient.”
As a long distance truck driver, Tom had just returned from Texas and was
at home preparing to head back out on the road to Oklahoma City when he
became dizzy and started having trouble walking. As he tried to do laundry
and prepare food for the following week, he thought perhaps he had an
inner ear infection so he took a nap. But, when he woke up the symptoms
grew more intense.
“I looked up stroke symptoms on the internet and called my son Curtis,”
says Tom. “I was weak on my left side, sweating profusely, became
nauseous, started vomiting and, by the time Curtis arrived, I had fallen
down in the backyard while trying to take laundry off the clothesline.”
Curtis called an ambulance and Tom arrived at the hospital where he was
given a drug called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) to dissolve any
clots and restore blood flow to his brain. Fortunately Tom acted quickly
because tPA must be given as soon as possible after stroke symptoms start.
With every passing minute, more brain cells die and, if a patient waits
too long, they may not be a candidate for tPA. According to the
American Stroke Association, stroke is the fifth leading cause of death and one of the leading causes
of long-term adult disability in the U.S.
“TPA saved my life but I needed extensive rehab — I couldn’t
dress myself, I couldn’t eat, and I couldn’t walk,”
Tom says. “It’s now been four months since my stroke and I’ve
been told that my recovery has been remarkable. Part of it was good medicine
and part of it was CVMC’s great rehab staff. Figuring out where
to go for help was overwhelming.”
Stephanie Cathey, CVMC’s Inpatient Rehab Admission Liaison, worked
with Tom to help him figure out his treatment options and coordinated
his admission to CVMC’s
CARF accredited Inpatient Rehab unit. Tom says Stephanie’s visit was “like having a visit from
an angel.” She worked with Heather Bissell, CVMC Inpatient Rehab
Care Coordinator, to develop a recovery plan that started with inpatient
rehabilitation including rehab nursing, occupational, physical and speech
therapies. After 22 days, Tom was released from the hospital but continued
making progress by working with CVMC’s outpatient rehabilitation
team, taking his prescribed medications and following up with various
medical providers. Tom’s stroke recovery team included:
- Jenny and Chris – inpatient and outpatient physical therapists who
helped Tom address challenges with movement, balance and coordination.
He began rehab in a wheelchair and is now walking with a cane. He has
made significant progress in regaining strength and improving range of
motion in his left arm and leg.
- Maude, Megan, Nicole, and Maribeth – the occupational therapy staff
who helped him practice eating, bathing, dressing and achieving other
daily living capabilities.
- Julie – a speech-language pathologist who worked with Tom on his
speech and language skills as well as his problems with swallowing.
- Marea – a social worker who helped coordinate outpatient therapy
follow-up and assisted Tom in applying for charity care. She also helped
Tom get the medical equipment he needed such as a wheelchair, shower seat,
and ankle brace – all provided by CVMC’s Good Samaritan’s Closet.
- Rehab nursing staff – specially trained nurses and aides who assisted
Tom with education regarding his condition and how to prevent future strokes.
The nursing staff was also instrumental in ensuring Tom carried over the
skills he learned in rehab when he was not in therapy.
- Rehab physician – who provided appropriate medical care and coordinated
the plan of care while Tom was an inpatient.
“A key part of rehab is taking steps to prevent a future stroke and
improved health,” says Heather. “That’s why we make
sure patients like Tom have a comprehensive plan in place for medical
and therapy follow-up care.” Heather arranged post-discharge appointments
for Tom at Catawba Family Care for primary physician care, neurology follow-up
and a needed sleep study. She also called him a week after he went home
to check on his progress, make sure his equipment was working well and
to remind him about upcoming follow-up appointments. She also encouraged
him to attend CVMC’s monthly
Stroke Support Group where she says he was “a light among the group.”
Although the road to recovery can be long and frustrating, Tom has made
great improvements in the first few months after his stroke. He finds
encouragement from a strong support network of family and friends and
is looking into moving to Oregon to be closer to his three sons who live
there. He says, “I have nothing but really good things to say about
CVMC’s staff. They helped me make good out of a really bad situation.”