Barry Holsinger - Midland, MI
"My stroke was one of the scariest parts of our lives. If you need to recover from something like this, go to the RehabCentre."
After a Serious Stroke, He Returned to Normal Life with Exceptional Care and Therapy
About a year ago, Barry Holsinger of Midland got out of bed one morning and fell onto the floor. He was having a hemorrhagic brain bleed stroke.
Holsinger retired not long ago after a busy career as a carpenter. Now he's a hunter, fisherman, cyclist, scuba diver and woodcutter, and most importantly, a husband.
He and his wife, Marabeth, having both lost their spouses, married five years ago and formed a blended, multigenerational family. They still think of themselves of newlyweds. She was on a business trip to California when Holsinger had the stroke.
"I realized my left arm and leg were numb and useless, and I knew I had to get help," Holsinger said. He crawled to the nightstand for his phone and reached his son, who called 911.
"The MidMichigan ER staff members were fantastic," Holsinger said. Within minutes of arriving in the Emergency Room at MidMichigan Medical Center - Midland, he received a brain scan, then spent a week in the Medical Center's trauma intensive care unit under the care of a team led by Neurosurgeon Mark Jones, M.D.
"A key to recovery was to get moving," Holsinger said. "Within three days of my stroke, the team's physical therapist began to help me try and walk."
After a week in intensive care, he moved to the RehabCentre at MidMichigan Medical Center - Gratiot. He remembers that the start of rehab was rough, but the staff helped the couple cope and work on recovery. Marabeth adopted a routine of driving to work in Midland, then returning to the RehabCentre to be with her husband at night.
On his door was a constantly updated list of goals developed with the center's clinical social worker. Holsinger said, "He'd ask me, 'Barry, what are your goals?' and I'd tell him, 'I want to be able to hug my wife, ride my bike and use the bathroom.'" The approach resonated with Holsinger. He could see his goals driving the rehabilitation plan the team tailored just for him.
The stroke had damaged brain connections that helped his body orient itself in space. Walking was going to be the best medicine, but he couldn't do it independently yet, so he used a body harness attached to the ceiling.
"That experience set my mind to know that I was going to be all right. My therapist would come in, and I would tell him I wanted to do the harness again. I could not wait to get back to work," he said.
Holsinger also had a problem called "left neglect." "Somebody would be on my left side, and I wasn't aware they were there," he said. Targeted therapy included playing card games, working mazes and binding his right arm so he would use the left. "I could see it was working," he said, "especially after I had to eat with my left hand and chase food around my plate."
After leaving the RehabCentre, Holsinger began therapy with outpatient rehabilitation at MidMichigan Medical Offices - Campus Ridge closer to home in Midland, focusing on walking, stretching and balance exercises.
All the great care and hard work paid off. "I look at where I started on March 31 and then where I was April 27 when I came home," Holsinger said. "In early May, I was cleared by a therapist and was driving. My brain was functioning properly. I drove with Marabeth until she thought I was ok to go. Three weeks after that, I rode my bike. We kept meeting goals and coming up with new ones."
"A lot of people say they can't even tell I've had a stroke," he said. "To me, it goes back to what the RehabCentre in Alma did for me." Now he tries to be active every day. "We went to Jamaica for a week in February, and started riding on the Rail Trail in March when the temperature got over 60 degrees. This summer, since I'm married to the Walleye queen, we'll be fishing and riding bicycles, and much more."
"My stroke was one of the scariest parts of our lives. You don't know what will happen. If you need to recover from something like this, tell them you want to go to the RehabCentre," Holsinger said. "Our experience there was probably our most incredible, life-changing event. That's why we’re so excited to share it."
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.