Derrick's story

Derrick Populus, is a 50-year-old gospel music producer and barber. One morning in June, he was getting ready to leave for work when he suddenly had a strange feeling in his left leg. “It felt like it was double jointed, but I thought nothing of it,” said Derrick. “I just thought I slept wrong or something.” So he continued about his day like normal and went to work. At lunchtime, he noticed a weird sensation in his arm, but again he pushed through. When he returned home that evening, he told his girlfriend, Julie about his experiences and she expressed concern and told him it sounded like a stroke. Derrick decided to try and sleep it off, but by 1:30 a.m., he decided it was time to go to the hospital.

Julie took him to Ochsner Medical Center, where they ran some tests and took his vital signs. His blood pressure was extremely high with a reading of 225/127. He was admitted and the following morning they performed an MRI, which revealed that Derrick did indeed have a stroke due to a blood clot.

Derrick stayed in the hospital for eight days. As he was getting close to discharge, it was recommended that he go to an inpatient rehabilitation hospital for additional recovery. He chose Northshore Rehabilitation Hospital based on recommendations from his sister-in-law.

Upon admission, Derrick was unable to walk or do anything with his left hand. He was able to feed himself, but he needed assistance going to the bathroom and performing most self-care tasks. At the outset of this next level of care, Derrick decided he needed to give himself some grace. “It was almost like I needed to recondition my mind and my attitude for what was about to occur so I could do better and improve while I was there,” said Derrick. “The next thing I wanted to do was try to get back to some sort of normalcy and walk again.”

In physical therapy, Derrick’s therapists used electrical stimulation on his arms and legs to help “wake up” his muscles. They also performed various exercises to increase the strength in his legs and practiced walking over and over again – beginning with just a few steps and working up to longer distances. “I asked my therapist to really challenge me, and she did,” said Derrick.

Meanwhile, Derrick’s occupational therapists focused on helping him with daily living activities. They started with dressing and bathing. Initially, he needed assistance to do everything. But with enough practice and learning new strategies, Derrick was eventually able to put on his clothes and perform other self-care tasks with greater independence.

Part of Derrick’s care plan included stroke education, which he found extremely valuable. After learning more about what occurs during a stroke and all the warning signs, he felt that he may have had other strokes prior to being admitted to the hospital. Derrick said, “The symptoms came and went like drooling, weakness in my arm and slurred speech, but I couldn’t connect the dots as to what was happening to me because I didn’t know what a stroke was.”

One thing that motivated Derrick during therapy was seeing other patients experiencing similar challenges and pushing through. “I knew if they could do it, I could do it.” Derrick’s parents and Julie were also a huge source of support during his recovery. He felt confident that once he returned home, he would have all the support he needed to thrive.

After 22 days, Derrick discharged home. He had met his goal of walking with a walker and was also independent with daily living activities. “When I first got to Northshore, I couldn’t walk and now I’m up to walking about 195 feet,” said Derrick.

He could not wait to return home and to the studio to begin producing gospel music again.  He also plans to barber part-time, too. “This experience has encouraged me, and I believe in about two or three months, I’ll be walking without a walker safely.”