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May is Stroke Awareness Month – LINDA’S STORY

May is Stroke Awareness Month - LINDA’S STORYLinda Miller, 68, moved from Phoenix, Arizona to Independence, Missouri in June 2012 to take a position as a senior pastor at a local church. She gave her first sermon July 1, and when she did not show up to church the following week, her new church family knew something was wrong and sent for help.
The morning of Sunday, July 8, Linda woke up around 3 a.m. because she could not turn over in bed. Her left arm was numb, so she thought if she took a shower, she could wake it up. She slowly walked into the bathroom and stepped into the shower, but soon noticed she could not raise her arm and her left leg was getting weak.

Recognizing these as signs of a stroke, she shut off the water and lowered herself down to sit in the shower. Linda lived alone, so she had to come up with a plan of how to get herself out of the shower and to the phone to call for help. She made several unsuccessful attempts to get to the phone. And soon she could hear her alarm clock going off, set for 6 a.m.

Finally, around 8 a.m., she heard someone coming to check on her. As soon as he found her, he called 911.

The paramedics arrived, sending her to the emergency department, where a CT scan revealed a hemorrhagic stroke.

Linda did not have a history of high blood pressure, so she was surprised. Looking back, she recalls having a killer headache for the three days prior to her stroke. Linda’s stroke affected the left side of her body, leaving it completely flaccid. Her speech was slow, slurred and monotone. She also had a face droop and loss of affect.

After a few days in the hospital, a MidAmerica Rehabilitation Hospital liaison came to her room and presented information on the benefits of acute rehabilitation in a hospital setting. Linda knew she did not want to go to a nursing home because she “did not want to be cared for,” and she “wanted to recover.” She was also very impressed that MidAmerica was a freestanding hospital dedicated to rehabilitation.

When she arrived at MidAmerica, Linda could not even sit up in a wheelchair without being belted in. However, within only two days of her arrival, she was up on her feet and determined to walk. Linda’s goal was to “come back all the way,” and no one ever doubted that she would. Linda was thrilled with her therapy and the progress she quickly made. Her therapists pushed her hard in a positive way. They expected a lot of her and did not waste any time. After five weeks of inpatient therapy, Linda was discharged home, walking with a quad cane.

Shortly after discharge, Linda returned to MidAmerica for outpatient therapy. She could have chosen a place closer to home, but impressed by her inpatient rehabilitation team, she knew it was worth the drive.
Bioness® advanced technologies helped her regain hand function, and she continues to use an ankle foot orthotic as needed for her affected leg. Linda now leads a Gathering Table group of support services for those with drug and alcohol addictions, has returned to knitting, and teaches art classes, adult education and literacy courses.

Linda continues to work hard and regain strength as well as function. She inspires and encourages others on the same journey following stroke. “Be kind to yourself and be gentle,” she tells them. “Don’t quit, don’t give up. Your body is capable of way more than you can dream.”

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