Dorothy's Story

Dorothy doing reach and grab exercises with a therapist.

Dorothy Williams, 58, retired from the service industry and was widowed after being married for 38 years. She now lives in Chalmette, Louisiana with her daughter, Lena and four grandchildren, ages 4, 12, 14 and 15.  One spring day, Dorothy woke to find herself unable to move the left side of her body. Her left leg felt extremely heavy, and her left arm wouldn’t move at all. Her daughter, also noticing weakness and slurred speech, immediately took her mother to the local emergency department. An MRI revealed that Dorothy had suffered a stroke.

After a few days in the hospital, Dorothy’s doctors determined she was well enough to transfer to an inpatient rehabilitation facility for further recovery. They recommended Northshore Rehabilitation Hospital.

Upon admission to Northshore Rehabilitation Hospital, Dorothy set goals for herself including regaining her independence, walking on her own and returning to her previous level of activities such as playing with and caring for her grandchildren.

Prior to the stroke, Dorothy was completely independent, saying, “I did things for myself.  I walked to the store and took care of my grandkids while my daughter was at work.”  Unfortunately, things were different for her after the stroke. “I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t dress or care for myself, I had no use of the left side of my body.  Nothing was working.”

To help Dorothy reach her goals, she began working with a multi-disciplinary team at the hospital. In occupational therapy, she participated in solo activities such as hand exercises with therapy putty, stretching and activities to improve fine motor skills. Group therapy included fun activities such as tossing and catching balls and throwing horseshoes.

Dorothy’s physical therapy involved performing balance activities in the parallel bars and exercises to increase the strength in her left leg. She also used the Tollos overhead support system to challenge her balance reactions. Over time, Dorothy slowly began increasing the distance she was able to walk, using only a cane for support.

Dorothy’s daughter and son-in-law were a huge source of support during her recovery, visiting daily as well as participating in family training sessions. An even bigger contribution to her emotional recovery was the daily phone calls with her grandchildren. “I talked with them on the phone every day.  They couldn’t wait for me to come home. They would tell me how much they miss me, and to get well.”

Three weeks after arriving, Dorothy was ready to return home. She had progressed significantly toward meeting her goals, stating, “I can dress myself, use the bathroom, bathe myself and put my own socks and shoes on. I can move my hand, my leg and I can walk.” She was most looking forward to spending time at home with family. She planned to continue her therapy with home health, then transition to outpatient physical and occupational therapy.

In reflecting on her recovery process, Dorothy said, “I learned that I can do anything I put my mind to.”  She also offered the following advice to others who may be experiencing similar struggles: “Try hard, keep hope and faith, and just do the best you can.”