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Dennis’ Story

Flying High Through Recovery

Dennis' Story
From Left (top): Mary Gessler, Inpatient Occupational Therapy Assistant, Dennis Gharst, (bottom): Cyndee Rainbolt, Outpatient Occupational Therapist, Margo Marmon, Inpatient Physical Therapist Assistant, Katie Barta, Outpatient Physical Therapist

On August 29, 2014, Dennis Gharst, a flight attendant, had just returned home from Colorado. He did his laundry, packed his bag for the next day and retreated to his “man cave” in the basement to relax. His wife, also a flight attendant, was in North Carolina.

Around 10:30 p.m., Dennis noticed he “wasn’t walking quite right” and had some numbness on the left side of his face and arm. He never thought “in a million years” that he’d have a stroke, but he knew from his training as a flight attendant that he needed to get help quickly.

Dennis called 9-1-1 and an ambulance transported him to Shawnee Mission Medical Center (SMMC), where he underwent a series of tests including a MRI and a CT scan. He spent six days at SMMC; four in the intensive care unit, before transferring to MidAmerica Rehabilitation Hospital. Dennis made his decision to go to MidAmerica based on its reputation of getting patients back home quickly, with maximum independence.

When Dennis arrived to MidAmerica, he had lost some of his memory, had weakness in his left arm and leg, and used a wheelchair to get around. It took two people to help Dennis stand up and he could only walk a short distance with
a walker.

“You don’t realize how much you use your hands and feet until you can’t,”
Dennis says.

When Dennis met his nurse, he described her as an “angel” sent to help him in his recovery. The staff at MidAmerica challenged him, increased his confidence, helped him see his improvements and explained what was going on and why.
“The staff was sweet, encouraging and a lot of fun,” Dennis says. “They knew exactly what I needed.”

Dennis’ goal was to return home independently—he didn’t want to burden anyone. His inpatient physical and occupational therapists helped him transition from a wheelchair to a walker, and finally to a cane. Technologies such as Dynavision D2™, Interactive Metronome™ and Biodex Balance System SD™ were included in his comprehensive care plan to help in his rehabilitation.

Dennis excelled in his therapy with the support of his wife. “She was so encouraging,” Dennis says. “She gave me hope.”

She bought him a walker and a cane to prepare for his return home, but his therapists said he wouldn’t need either.

Eight days later, Dennis was discharged from MidAmerica confident that he’d be able to safely move around at home and walk up and down the stairs. He used his cane when he left MidAmerica, but only for “security.”

Dennis began outpatient therapy at MidAmerica the following week. He attends twice a week with the goal of returning to work by January 2015.

“I can tell my therapists are very experienced, Dennis says. “They definitely know what they’re doing.”

Today, Dennis can do everything he used to do before his stroke, but now it’s just a little harder.
He goes out and about, walks his dogs, runs errands and his son visits him daily. His biggest challenge is balance and walking because his left leg is still stiff. Dennis looks forward to the upcoming physical testing he’s required to complete before he returns to work as a flight attendant. He “can’t wait to get back to work.”

5701 West 110th Street
Overland Park, KS 66211

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