Erland Pollard, a 70-year-old retired drafting engineer, enjoys hobbies such as smoking barbecue and working on cars. One night, he woke up around 3 a.m. to use the bathroom and discovered he was unable to move his legs over the side of the bed. After several attempts, he was finally able to get out of bed but his legs felt very heavy. After losing his balance, he fell into the bathtub, hitting his head on the wall, and was unable to get up. His wife, Eleanor, heard the commotion, rushed in and immediately called a neighbor for help. They helped him move from the bathroom to the living room, but they noticed his mouth was drooping and he kept losing his balance. Suspecting a stroke, Eleanor called 911.
Erland was taken to a local hospital and was then transferred to Ochsner Medical Center where the medical team performed an exam and tests, which confirmed a stroke due to a clot. He underwent emergency surgery to insert a stent and remove the clot in his carotid artery. Requiring additional recovery, Erland was a good candidate for inpatient rehabilitation. After three days at Ochsner, he transferred to Northshore Rehabilitation Hospital.
Upon admission, Erland had difficulty walking, left arm and leg weakness and was unable to perform most daily tasks without assistance. His main goal was to be able to walk unassisted.
The hospital’s physical therapy team immediately began working with Erland to improve his balance and walking skills. He started with the parallel bars, working on weight shifting and balance, since he still needed significant assistance to stand. He also performed leg-strengthening exercises and used the SCIFIT seated stepper to build strength and prepare him for walking longer distances. Erland recalls his “ah-ha” moment, saying, “When I was able to walk up and down the steps for the first time, I knew I was on the path to recovery.”
Initially, Erland required maximum assistance with transferring to the toilet and getting dressed. He also had weakness to his left arm and was unable to accomplish self-care tasks. During his occupational therapy sessions, therapists taught him how to dress and perform daily living activities in new ways. They used fine and gross motor activities such as ball throwing and other games and exercises to increase left arm strength. Over time, Erland found himself able to do everyday tasks with greater independence.
Throughout his entire journey, Erland says he couldn’t have done it without Eleanor, his primary support system who kept him motivated emotionally.
After 21 days at Northshore Rehabilitation Hospital, Erland was ready to go home and continue his recovery with home health therapy. At discharge, he was able to walk nearly 100 feet with a rolling walker and perform daily activities, both with minimal assistance.