Short Term Rehab Success Story: Stroke to Recovery

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By: Teresa V.  Inspired by Ellen Darnell
This is true story of a very independent woman, a single mom since 1973, a story of a very healthy, happy and kind person. This is the story of “My Mom,” she may be much like your mom, or she may be very different, but please read my mom’s journey, and I do hope that it inspires you and your family to: NEVER GIVE-UP HOPE!

Prior to my mom’s hospitalization she did the following: cleaned her home, washed her clothes, prepared her own meals, mowed her grass, took care of her garden and flower beds, she was very active in church, with her craft group, travel group, she was very active on the computer, she’d send over 500 text messages via cell phone in a month to family and friends. She didn’t need “anyone” for “anything.” I’m her youngest child and she ran circles around me in a day. I could only wish to have as much energy and to get as much done as she would in a day. My mom was VERY active and she always stayed busy doing something!

My mom woke-up on 5/18/14 with extreme pain in her chest and her arms. She’s never one to run to the doctor, but on that day, she knew that something was really wrong. After some testing, it was confirmed that she’d had a heart attack. She was transported to the Virginia Hospital Center via ambulance. Upon her arrival, she was immediately sent up to the operating room for a Cardiac Catheterization. Two stents were placed in her heart and she was then sent to the Cardiac ICU for observation. She seemed fine and she was doing really well, until, I returned on 5/19/14. On that day, she was very lethargic and she seemed a bit confused. I left her ICU room for a matter of minutes and when I came back…there were approximately 15 people in her room trying to get her to wake-up and to speak. I learned later that she’s suffered a TIA (transient ischemic attack), a TIA is like a stroke, producing similar symptoms, but usually lasting only a few minutes and causing no permanent damage. Often called a mini-stroke. She seemed to fully recover from the TIA, she ate dinner that evening and she even texted me on my way home…everything seemed fine. The hospital called me at 3:30 a.m. on 5/20/14 to advise that she was now suffering from AFib Atrial fibrillation (also called AFib or AF) this is a quivering or irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications. She was also completely unresponsive and shortly thereafter, it was confirmed that she’d had a major stroke affecting her entire right side, her ability to speak and to swallow. Hence, she was completely unresponsive for the next few days and completely paralyzed on her right side.

After my mom’s stroke, she couldn’t move her right side, and she couldn’t speak at all. In order to      communicate with her, we had to hold her left hand, ask questions and if she squeezed our hand…that meant “yes”…if she didn’t squeeze…that meant “no.” She was absolutely unable to do anything for herself. On the day that she was released from the hospital to Potomac Falls on 6/4/14, she couldn’t even sit on the edge of her hospital bed for 5 seconds without falling to her side. She was unable to move, to speak, or to do anything for herself. She was transported that day via stretcher and ambulance because of her inability to move.

Fast forward: Here we are at 9/17/14…my mom was discharged from inpatient rehab on 8/1/14, at that time she was able to walk, talk, swallow and do many things for herself. She returned back to her own home on 8/1/14 and she continues to have in home rehab. She is now able to functionally move her right extremities, she still walks with a walker (for safety), but she can also use a quad cane (4 legged cane) to get around, of note: she is also able to walk completely on her own (we don’t encourage it unless someone is there with her). She’s able to functionally speak again, and after having 24/7 care for 6 weeks upon her return home, she’s now able to stay at home alone for at least 2 days and nights at a time. My mom is a true fighter, she’s always had that fighting spirit. Although it was very challenging, I had no doubts, when this happened to her, that she’d get better. I was told all along….”No one has a crystal ball.” But, I just knew that my mom would pull through this and so far, she has had an extraordinary recovery!

I attribute many things to my mom’s success. First and foremost, her sheer will to get better and to fight this stroke! Secondly, I attribute much of her success to the fabulous therapists at Potomac Falls. She was admitted on 6/4/14 and she began therapy the next day, she was seen at least 5 times a week by Occupational, Physical, and Speech therapists. They were ALL FABULOUS!!! They were all very kind to her, yet they weren’t afraid to be stern (when required) and to challenge her as well, and that’s most important in a patient’s recovery. When someone has had a stroke (brain injury) there are times when they need to be pushed, and that’s just what happened. For my mom, it was the most imperative aspect of her recovery. My mom wouldn’t be where she is today without the hard work and dedication of her entire therapy team.

If I could give words of advice for another person/ family going through this process:

  1.  Moving your loved one into a rehab/ long-term care facility is never easy (I cried many hours and days about having to make that decision), but know, that you are doing the RIGHT thing! There is JUST NO WAY that your loved one will receive the same level of therapy at home, as they will in a rehab facility. I never dreamed in a million years that I’d have to seek out a rehab facility for my own mother, and yet, there I was doing just that at the end of May 2014. When I walked through the front door of Cameron Glen/ Potomac Falls for the first time, I almost couldn’t breathe. Yet, I was treated with such empathy and kindness by the staff. I met Leslie (Assistant Administrator) right away, and she knew, exactly what I was going through and she put my mind at ease (as much as possible) within minutes. By the time I left the facility that day, I just knew, this was the right place for my mom (even though I was going to visit 2 more facilities). After going to those facilities, I was convinced that Potomac Falls was the best place for my mom. There was just no comparison, when it came to the facilities themselves, the staff and the general ambiance.
  2.  Don’t give-up on your loved one! They are much stronger than you may think and/or know. Encourage them, love them, and believe, at the end of the day, they will get better and make progress! If YOU don’t believe that in your heart, how will THEY ever believe it? No one has a crystal ball, but positivity and positive energy is the BEST healer. I was told by a Neurologist, when my mom was in the hospital that she’d never walk, or be able to functionally use her right side again. Thankfully, she was wrong! Again, don’t ever give up!
  3.  Stay strong & Take care of yourself: the most important words of advice that I can give anyone going through this troublesome journey: you have to take care of yourself FIRST, be strong and keep believing in the best outcome possible!

What I am grateful for?

Wow, I am grateful for so many things and for so many people, where do I even start?! First, my mom is the hero in all of this…her sheer will, determination, drive and strength to get better has been second to none. However, without the hard work, knowledge and teamwork of her onsite therapists at Potomac Falls…none of it would have been possible. I watched my mom struggle every day, work hard every day, I watched a smile come to her face every day when her therapists would come for a session. I thank my lucky stars each day & night for having such a driven mother, but also for her support team of nurses, CNA’s, Admin Staff, and therapists at Potomac Falls. I’m so happy and thankful to say, “I have my mom back again!” I couldn’t truly say this, without thanking the entire team of people who cared for her! Potomac Falls has been a true blessing in our lives. I just want to go on record, in giving my praise and thanks to all those at Potomac Falls, who sacrifice, who work hard, who love and care for those people who really need them, and those who believe that “anything is possible!” Thank you and God bless!