Rehabilition therapy key to recovery after a stroke

3/20/2014, 9 a.m.
Days before having a stroke, Gwendolyn Jackson felt that something was wrong. “I started having rapid heartbeats,” said Jackson, 42, ...
Gwendolyn Jackson

Days before having a stroke, Gwendolyn Jackson felt that something was wrong.

“I started having rapid heartbeats,” said Jackson, 42, a freelance journalist. “I would get dizzy when I stood up. I also started having shortness of breath.”

But like many people, Jackson ignored the signs. In fact, a recent study by the University of Alabama showed that more than half of Americans experiencing stroke-like symptoms do not seek medical attention.

Because Jackson ignored the signs, she collapsed one day while using a public bathroom

“I was coherent, but all of a sudden, I couldn’t talk,” she said.

Fortunately, someone saw her on the bathroom floor and called 911.

Jackson was rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where she was treated for a stroke.

Later she learned that her stroke stemmed from a clotting disorder.

“Doctors at Jackson removed the clot, and I am so grateful,” she said.

Jackson suffered some lasting effects from the stroke, which affected the left side of her brain that controls speech. She now stutters a bit and struggles to complete sentences. The stroke also caused Jackson to lose some function in her right arm and leg.

To help with her recovery, Jackson is receiving speech, recreational and physical therapy at Jackson Rehabilitation Hospital, where she works closely with a comprehensive team of therapists who are specially trained to rehabilitate patients who have suffered strokes and other traumatic brain injuries.

“We provide physical, cognitive and occupational and emotional therapy,” said Kelly Messett, a recreation therapist at Jackson Rehabilitation Hospital. “We teach our patients how to return to everyday activities so they can go home and be as independent as possible.”

Jackson says she has noticed significant progress in her rehabilitation.

“The therapists at Jackson Rehabilitation Hospital are the best,” she said. “They understand what the patients are going through. They have helped me a lot, and I am moving a lot better since I’ve come here.”

Now Jackson is fighting back, putting in the hard work that it takes to successfully restore her independence after a stroke.

Still, she hasn’t forgotten how she got here and is determined to educate others on the early warning signs that she let slip by – shortness of breath, rapid heartbeats, and dizziness. Her advice to others about strokes: “Don’t ignore the signs and symptoms. Don’t ignore your body when you think something is wrong. Seek medical help immediately.”