A crossword puzzle may have saved Carole LeBlanc’s life.
Carole, 74, was going about her life -- working as a cashier in New Orleans and spending time with her three grown children and grandchildren, two of whom she had adopted. One day, while doing one of her favorite leisure activities, crossword puzzles, that she noticed her handwriting looked odd. The following day, she noticed her right leg wasn’t working properly. Then Carole lost her coordination. She knew she needed immediate medical attention. Her daughter drove her to the St. Tammany Parish Hospital Emergency Department, in Mandeville. After performing a CT scan, doctors confirmed Carole had suffered a stroke.
After spending several days at St. Tammany, Carole was transferred to Northshore Rehabilitation Hospital by recommendation of family and friends. When she arrived, she was unable to use her right arm, hand or leg. Carole’s main goal was to walk out the front door of the hospital at discharge. She began working with occupational and physical therapists to help reach that goal.
Occupational therapists took Carole through range of motion exercises with her right arm and also applied neuromuscular electrical stimulation to her right hand to begin retraining her muscles to move actively. Therapists also taught Carole new techniques for getting dressed, bathing and toileting.
In physical therapy, Carole worked with therapists to improve the strength, balance and endurance in her right leg. Therapists used the Bioness electrical stimulation system to enhance muscle coordination during walking activities. Carole was also fitted for an ankle foot splint to help lift her toes to prevent dragging her foot when walking.
Carole’s “aha moment” was when the movement in her arm and hand started to come back. “I did not think I’d be as far along as I was,” Carole said. “Everyday something new happened, like one morning when I was able to write my initials.”
Carole’s live-in daughter attended meetings and training sessions with Carole’s therapists. They showed her how to properly help Carole get in and out of the car, as well as other caregiver activities, to prepare for a smooth return to home.
After 19 days at Northshore Rehabilitation Hospital, Carole was discharged. She walked 130 feet with a rolling walker, was able to stand and move from one surface to another and perform self-care tasks with very little assistance.
Carole was excited to go home to see her grandchildren and planned to continue rebuilding her strength with outpatient therapy.