Christie Ruppel, age 56, lives with her husband in Slidell, Louisiana where she enjoys volunteering at her church, playing the piano, doing cross-stitch, making jewelry and being involved in the lives of her three grown children.
One evening, Christie woke her husband with complaints of numbness and tingling on the right side of her body, which quickly progressed to an inability to move or speak. Her family immediately took her to the local hospital where she had a CT scan performed and it was determined that she had suffered a stroke on the left side of her brain.
The stroke caused Christie to be paralyzed on the right side of her body, affecting her ability to walk and talk, and making self-care tasks very challenging. She spent 15 days in the hospital where she received several days of physical, occupational and speech therapy. Following this initial therapy, her doctors recommended that she transfer to a comprehensive rehabilitation hospital. After visiting multiple facilities, her family decided that Northshore Rehabilitation Hospital would be the best choice for her recovery.
Upon arrival, Christie set goals to be able to stand again and to improve her ability to communicate. Her physical therapy team worked with her to sit in bed to build core strength followed by transfers of getting in and out of bed and on and off the toilet. Her therapists also worked with Christie on knee extension exercises using her own leg weight to increase strength in an effort to stand. Many of Christie’s early sessions occurred on a therapy mat to focus on core body control. In time, she advanced to the parallel bars working on standing balance and right leg strength. Christie recalls she felt encouraged in her recovery journey when she started to see the progression of her strength and accomplished key tasks in therapy.
Occupational therapy worked on many self-care activities with Christie including how to dress using techniques designed for stroke patients. Her therapist also worked with her on daily range of motion exercises in her right arm to prevent tightening of muscles and joints, as well as using electrical stimulation on her right hand and forearm to stimulate nerves and muscles.
In speech therapy, Christie worked on improving her communication skills using word finding activities and learning strategies such as slowing down when talking and using simple phrases to convey her message.
In addition to her individual therapy sessions, Christie also enjoyed attending group therapy where she was able to interact with other patients, practice her speech skills and engage in games to improve her strength and endurance. She recalled that group sessions gave her the opportunity to enjoy some fun activities while working on her therapy.
She advises others in rehabilitation to get engaged with their therapists and the programs saying, “You have people here to help you, so participate in everything.” She also said her family’s support through daily visits and participation in family therapy training was important to her recovery, “They’ve been here for everything I’ve done.”
After discharge, Christie looks forward to getting back to some sort of normalcy, and she plans to continue rebuilding strength with outpatient therapy.