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Published on October 17, 2018

The RehabCentre Helped Her Find Her Voice Again

Photo of Nelda Stuppia speech therapy patient with the RehabCentre at MidMichigan Medical Center - Gratiot.

After a minor stroke caused Nelda Stuppia’s speech and movement to suffer, treatment at MidMichigan Health’s RehabCentre helped her regain her independence.

73-year-old Nelda Stuppia of Farwell is very caring. Born and raised on a farm, she has worked various jobs over the years to provide for her family – first doing laundry at the hospital in Clare, then at a nursing home and for 30 years at Clare Public Schools. She has been married to her husband, Frank, for 52 years, and they have three daughters who live close by. She also has two granddaughters.

On June 8 of this year, Stuppia was helping members of her extended family set up for a town hall event. When the event finished around 5 p.m., Stuppia drove home and parked her car in the garage. After that, she can’t remember anything.

Only from her husband’s recounting of events does Stuppia know what happened to her after she arrived home that day. Right after getting out of the car, something caused her to fall and hit her head.

Some time later Stuppia regained consciousness, then went out to the deck and called to her husband who was working in the pole barn. They both agreed that she needed to go to the hospital, but thought stitches were all that she would need.

In actuality, the fall had started a bleed in Stuppia’s brain. By the time they reached the emergency room at MidMichigan Medical Center - Clare, Stuppia was suffering from a mild hemorrhagic stroke. The nurse at the emergency room had her transferred to MidMichigan Medical Center - Midland, where she underwent surgery to stop the bleeding.

Though the surgeons were able to stop the bleeding and stabilize her brain, the incident had already interrupted some of Stuppia’s neurocognitive functions. With the injury in the right side of her brain, Stuppia lost the motion in her left arm, as well as her ability to speak. She was unable to raise her arm, and nobody could understand her when she talked.

Stuppia spent a couple of weeks recovering from the ordeal in the hospital. As she healed, it became obvious that she would need rehabilitation before she could be on her own again. In early July she was admitted for treatment at MidMichigan Medical Center – Gratiot’s RehabCentre. There, she underwent physical and occupational therapy to rebuild the strength in her arm, as well as speech therapy.

During her time there, Stuppia also had caretakers to keep an eye on her and make sure she didn’t run into any more trouble while she recuperated. “If you turned your hall light on, they came,” she said. At every mealtime, a therapist would come and fetch her. They would sit with her in the dining hall and monitor her ability to swallow different types of food, since this is also commonly affected by strokes.

“I just had the best care that you could want,” Stuppia said. “They are an awesome bunch down there; they didn’t talk down to you at all.”

After a couple of weeks, Stuppia began to show improvement. She remembers a couple instances where, after a lot of hard work with her dedicated therapists, she reached a breakthrough moment. The first of these was during a session with her speech therapist. Normally, she spoke so softly that nobody could hear, so her therapist kept encouraging her to speak louder. Something clicked this day, and after her therapist asked a question, Stuppia replied to him clearly and loudly. “Oh my God, Nelda, do I ever love that voice!” she remembers him exclaiming at her success.

Later, she was attending a session with her physical therapist Liz, who Stuppia adds is really nice. Stuppia had been spending time working with elastic resistance bands to strengthen her arm and hand, which had become very weak. Some work was done on her leg and ankle as well, which had also been affected by the stroke, but not to the same extent. On this day, she was practicing squeezing her therapist’s hand, apparently tighter than she had realized. She remembers her therapist having to ask her, “Nelda, would you let go?”

Eventually, Stuppia had recovered her abilities enough to be discharged from the RehabCentre at the end of July. For the time being she is getting around with a walker, but she and her therapists are optimistic that soon she will be walking unaided. She will be doing a bit of outpatient physical therapy since there is still some weakness in her arm and leg, but everything else has come back.

Now at home, there are more and more things she is able to do on her own again. She can go shopping in Midland and does the laundry - carrying the hamper herself into the bedroom where her husband helps her put away their clothes. Following her success, she is eager to recommend MidMichigan Health and their rehabilitation program to anybody who might need it. Even her daughters have been telling others about it, as they were impressed with the care as well. “I had excellent care at the RehabCentre,” Stuppia said. “They treated me like I was their mother.”

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 on the RehabCentre may visit www.midmichigan.org/rehabcentre.