Brain and Spine Care
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A stroke can be devastating. It changes your life in ways no one can predict, both mentally and physically. It can happen to anyone at any age, even those in good health. But it’s what happens after the stroke that makes all the difference, and Molly Roock is a great example.
Molly is a 29-year-old nursing assistant. On Christmas Day, she woke with neck pain followed by a headache the day after. Thinking nothing of it, she went about her day, but the pain worsened.
Three days later, Roock couldn’t get to work and soon had a fever, followed by vomiting. Her father took her to the Emergency Department at Soin Medical Center, where a CT scan showed something difficult to believe: Roock’s brain was bleeding.
“Working in the emergency room, I never saw anyone younger than mid-30s who had possibly had a stroke,” Molly says. “The second I’m told I did, I immediately think, ‘That’s not how it works!’ I don’t smoke. I’m not unhealthy. And yet, I’m one of the few it still happened to.
“I never had the classic symptoms, and I was always fairly healthy,” Roock said. “If something in your gut is telling you something is wrong, it’s time to listen to your body.” She was transferred to Kettering Health Main Campus, where she stayed in the intensive care unit for five days. It was there she learned she had suffered a stroke.
Recovery starts with a goal
Christina Garrity is a physical therapist with the NeuroRehab and Balance Center at Kettering Health. She coordinates the NeuroRehab and Balance stroke recovery team and support group.
Patients come to her team once they have returned home, are released from inpatient rehab, and have finished with home health care. “We offer long-term care, often when patients are living at home independently or with the help of family,” Garrity said. “We work with the patient until we help them reach their goal.”
After a stroke, education is vital. “Our job is to apply the best evidence-based therapy,” Garrity said. “You can fill therapy time with exercises, but if it’s not the best possible practice and use of the time, it may not provide the ideal outcome. We tailor the treatment to each individual’s needs to get the greatest results in the least amount of time.
Specialized therapy for neurologic challenges
“Our clinic is set up for the neurologically compromised population specifically,” Garrity noted. “We have occupational, speech, and physical therapy all in one location.” The patient may also need a great deal of help and support from outside resources to help at home, and their case manager assists with that.
According to Garrity, the hope always is to regain the same level of activity the patient had before the stroke. Sometimes that means using modified techniques or equipment to allow for functional independence.
The goal of therapy is to use the brain’s ability to create new routes and pathways around the damaged tissue, so it can be retrained. The patient’s deficits are identified, and the therapists design activities and exercises with a lot of repetition, enabling the quicker formation of those new pathways.
Next, the patient is provided with tools and adaptations within their living environment to make it easier. This can include devices such as canes and walkers, specialized bathroom equipment, splints for hands, and glasses for sight deficits. Sometimes complications from a stroke can cause involuntary muscle contractions in hand, so occupational therapists provide tips and tools to help patients do more on their own.
Stroke recovery is a marathon, not a sprint
After a 17-day hospital stay, Roock began outpatient therapy at the NeuroRehab and Balance Center.
In Molly’s case, walking and talking was a major challenge. “The first time they got me up to walk, it was almost like a car sitting there, burning out. My legs kept going up and down, but they wouldn’t go forward,” she said about her therapy. “I couldn’t say what I wanted, so I spent most of the time writing notes. My handwriting looked like someone in kindergarten. I knew exactly what I wanted to say, I just couldn’t get it out. It’s like you are trapped and screaming inside your own body.”
She continues to attend speech therapy today. “The NeuroRehab team has done more for me than I could ever imagine, and it still makes me cry, thinking back to their support,” Roock said.
Stroke recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a long-term endeavor greatly dependent on the patient’s commitment to the process—and it’s a team effort. The credit for Roock’s success is shared equally between herself and her therapy team.
Roock would like to continue to do what she can to raise awareness of what she’s been through. “I want to be an advocate for this,” she said. “It’s not something you see, a 29-year-old having a stroke, surviving, and getting back to 80% after four months. I worked my butt off, and I want to do what I can to help others.”
If you or someone you love is seeking an individualized stroke recovery plan or support after having a stroke, contact the Kettering Health NeuroRehab and Balance Center at (937) 401-6109 or the Stroke Survivors Club at (937) 395-8226.
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