Inpatient Rehabilitation Leads Local Stroke Victim to Recovery
When John Ford, 64, of Fort Worth, Texas, felt the right side of his body go limp while at work this past June, he did not immediately know that he was having a stroke, but he knew something was wrong and that he needed help. He alerted a nearby mounted police officer and asked him to call 911. MedStar arrived on the scene shortly thereafter and transported Ford to a local hospital.
While there, Ford learned he had suffered an ischemic cerebrovascular accident, commonly referred to as a stroke, on the left side of his brain, causing paralysis on the right side of his body as well as severe memory loss and difficulty speaking. “I was totally paralyzed on my right side,” says Ford, “and I’m right-handed. I was in a mess.” Ford, a self-proclaimed cowboy and former police officer, lives alone and had been very independent prior to the stroke, and knew that he wanted to return to his independent lifestyle as quickly as possible.
After a week-long hospitalization, Ford’s doctors told him it was time to leave and that he would need to choose a place for rehabilitation before he would be able to return home. “I was told that at HealthSouth, I’d get pretty intense therapy and that I would most likely get to go home after I stayed for a few weeks. So I went to HealthSouth,” Ford says. Ford stayed at HealthSouth on as an inpatient for 21 days. Because HealthSouth is an acute care rehabilitation hospital, Ford was able to receive 24-hour nursing care, as well as daily visits from specialized physicians. He also visited with the on-site pharmacist and became educated on why he had experienced the stroke initially. Just as importantly, he learned ways to help prevent another stroke from occurring in the future.
Ford says the real difference in his recovery was the therapy. Ford participated in 15 hours of therapy per week. Part of his therapy was spent doing physical therapy, where he learned the correct way to walk instead of overcompensating for his weaker right leg by overusing his left leg. He spent time with occupational therapy, retraining his right hand to be able to write again, use his cell phone again, and cook his famous ranch-style beans again. His memory loss and slurred speech, side effects of the stroke, were improved upon by time spent with the speech therapists.
“The nursing staff was so helpful in every way,” says Ford, “especially my nurse, Jerri. She always brightened my day. And Ken and Courtney in therapy worked so hard with me to help me be able to walk again.” And Ford is indeed able to walk again, taking his cane with him only as a precaution when he leaves his home. Ford asserts that the “peer pressure” from the friends he made in therapy pushed him to try harder, too. “Ken told me to walk all the way across the gym… I said, ‘Ken, get out of my way. I’m coming that way and I don’t want to knock you over.’” Ford was able to show his therapist he could walk the distance across the gym, and says, “The whole class just roared when I did it.”
When patients admit, therapists rate patients’ functional capabilities – memory, eating, walking, transferring, etc. – on a scale of 1 to 7; these are called functional independence measurements (FIMs). When Ford was admitted, his average FIM was 2.7; when he discharged to go home, his average FIM was 6.3 (again, the highest being a 7). A 6.3 FIM score meant that Ford was able to go home and live independently, but he was enrolled in HealthSouth’s outpatient therapy department, which he attended weekly to improve his balance and walking, and increase his FIM to the ultimate goal of 7. HealthSouth’s van picked him up before his hour-long therapy session, and took him home afterward. “Even the van drivers were great,” says Ford.
The transportation program is just another source of motivation for patients; it contributes to the family-like atmosphere at HealthSouth, which allows patients to feel comfortable in their therapy program and holds them accountable for attendance. Ford says he knew his van drivers, therapists, and fellow patients would notice if he missed a therapy visit and would “hound him” if he missed another visit.
When asked what advice he would give to other patients facing a similar situation, Ford says that simply having a good attitude can make all the difference in a stroke patient’s recovery. “I told myself every morning, ‘I’m not going to let this stroke whip me.’”