Barbara's Story 

Barbara Wall stands with her walker in Northshore Hospital.

Barbara Wall, an 86-year-old retired occupational therapy assistant and therapy assistant educator faced a life-altering moment when she suffered a stroke at her home in Mandeville. 

Alone and without help, Barbara struggled and fought for hours until she reached her phone. She dialed her granddaughter, who quickly contacted emergency personnel. Barbara was rushed by ambulance to St. Tammany Hospital, where doctors confirmed her diagnosis. After stabilizing, Barbara and her medical team decided that Northshore Rehabilitation Hospital was the next crucial step in her recovery.

Upon arrival to Northshore, the physician-led rehabilitation care team worked with Barbara and her family to put a treatment plan in place. Barbara faced daunting challenges – she was unable to walk, utilize her right side or conduct self-care tasks. However, she was determined to regain her independence.

In physical therapy, Barbara's therapists worked on getting her up and moving by employing exercises to strengthen her muscles —using therabands and a cycling machine for her leg muscles and having her roll herself in her wheelchair to build her arm muscles. She then progressed to walking with a walker and climbing stairs. 

The stroke on the left side of her brain affected the right side of her body, so her physical therapist also used standing weight bearing techniques to stimulate her brain to recognize and strengthen her right leg.  By the time of discharge, Barbara achieved remarkable progress, walking 115 feet and climbing 12 stairs with light assistance.

Occupational therapy (OT) played a pivotal role in strengthening Barbara's right side. Fine motor activities such as having her move pegs on a board and standing activities focused on maintaining balance while reaching honed her coordination and built her confidence. OT also demonstrated adaptive dressing tools such as a sock aid and dressing stick to help her get dressed. Repetition of self-care tasks such as brushing her hair and teeth helped to refine those skills. Indeed, at discharge, Barbara was independent with most of her daily self-care tasks.

Additionally, Barbara worked closely with a speech pathologist, enhancing her speech intelligibility and sharpening her cognitive skills. High-level problem-solving tasks, financial management strategies and complex cognitive puzzles prepared her to manage her own affairs upon returning home.

Barbara expressed gratitude for her family's support throughout her journey. Both her daughter and granddaughter, occupational therapists themselves, closely monitored her progress and underwent family training to assist her upon discharge.

Reflecting on her experience at Northshore Rehabilitation Hospital, Barbara remarked, "It has been very positive. The staff has been helpful, and everyone seems to always be pleasant to patients and each other."

When asked about any newfound insights, Barbara shared, "I learned that I am somewhat impatient. I wanted to progress quicker than I did because I didn't want to be a burden to anyone." She offered advice to others in similar situations, urging patience and resilience, saying, "Be patient with yourself and give it time."

Upon her discharge, Barbara eagerly looked forward to reuniting with her family and meeting her new great-granddaughter, who had been brought into this world during her hospital stay.