Stroke Specialty Program Helps Local Woman Regain Her Independence
Thanks to the RehabCentre’s specialized stroke program, Helen Curtis is back to enjoying the things she loves, including gardening at her home in Shepherd.
A stroke can be a thief that robs you of the life you enjoy, but that did not happen to 79-year-old Helen Curtis of Shepherd.
With rehabilitation targeted to her specific needs, and the right attitude, Helen was able to regain the abilities taken by her stroke and return to her independent life.
Helen’s stroke occurred as she was starting Sunday dinner. She had just come down from a step stool, holding a jar of bouillon cubes, when she realized she couldn’t stand up.
Fortunately, she was able to call to John, her husband of more than 40 years. “My right side was numb,” she said. “I told him, ‘You have to come here and help me. Something’s wrong with me. I don’t know what’s happening.’”
John quickly phoned their daughter and son-in-law, who hurried over and took Helen to MidMichigan Medical Center–Gratiot.
“I was pretty lucky,” she said. “An MRI showed that the blood clot that caused the stroke had broken up. It also showed that I’d had a mini-stroke sometime in the past.”
After three nights in the hospital, Helen decided to start rehabilitation at the RehabCentre. Located right at MidMichigan Medical Center–Gratiot, the facility has an accredited stroke specialty program.
With Helen receiving care conveniently near home, her daughter was able to come every day, and even her husband, who is less mobile, made the short trip for several visits.
Helen worked in physical therapy in Mt. Pleasant before retiring. Because she knew her independence was at stake, and what could be done to help her, she was optimistic and went into rehab with a great attitude.
“Even before going to therapy, I knew I had to get busy, so I started exercising my right leg and arm. At first, I thought that might be enough,” she said, “but when I got to rehab, I knew I needed more. I could have come home and had another fall and been right back where I started.”
During each of her six days of inpatient rehabilitation, Helen had a minimum of three hours of therapy: either physical therapy to restore her strength, flexibility and balance, or occupational therapy to help her regain the skills needed for an independent daily life, such as bathing, dressing and getting from place to place safely.
“I did a lot of walking,” she said. “Two therapists were always there with a belt around me to support or steady me. I also used an exercise bike that moved both my legs and my arms.”
Other exercises helped restore Helen’s balance and make sure she could negotiate a full set of stairs, so that she would not feel restricted by steps or level changes when she returned to her normal daily activities.
“The people at the RehabCentre are wonderful,” Curtis said. “They paid attention to what I said and asked me if I wanted anything. They always asked if I was in pain or needed any help. The staff also helped my family understand what was needed and interacted with them really well. The doctor would talk to my daughter whenever he came in.”
Two days before being discharged, Helen took a short outing with her family to see how she got along and test her skills. The following day, her therapists allowed her to be independent within her room to confirm that she could get herself out of bed, move around and get ready for the day.
Helen came through with flying colors! She was discharged with the ability to care for herself and walk 300 feet. She used a walker for safety on uneven surfaces, but was usually able to get around with just a cane. Additional outpatient therapy has helped her continue to increase her strength and abilities.
“I’m doing great now,” she said. “Three weeks after coming home, I was able to vacuum and do pretty good.” Two of the couple’s seven daughters live in the local area. “The girls help us out by fixing meals, but we put them in the microwave or the oven. I do that and everything else I can to stay mobile.”
Once things settled down, Helen’s daughter did give her a little lecture about calling 911 if there is any possibility that someone’s having a stroke. “She got after us,” Curtis said. “She told us, ‘Don’t wait and call us. The first thing you do is call 911.” Looking back, Helen agrees.
She also says that, following her stroke, she gained a lot by going to rehab and outpatient therapy. “If the doctor asks you to go there, I would suggest that you go,” she said. “It will help you get stronger before you have to go home. It’s a wise decision.”
The RehabCentre at MidMichigan Medical Center-Gratiot is a hospital-based unit specializing in intensive physical, occupational, recreational and speech therapy. Patients receive a minimum of three hours of therapy each day, along with 24-hour nursing and physician care. Those who would like more information about the RehabCentre may contact the community relations coordinator at (989) 466-3382 or visit www.midmichigan.org/rehabcentre.