Gaston Bienvenue, 78, lives in Mandeville, LA with his wife Carolyn. He is a proud father of three successful daughters – a pediatric nurse practitioner, a school teacher and a pharmaceutical representative. Gaston retired in 2005 from sales and personnel management and enjoys fishing with his four grandsons, playing cards at the country club and walking his 120-pound Golden Doodle named DuLac -- French for “from the lake.”
One day in January, Gaston was walking DuLac when he began to feel dizzy and fell to the ground. Fortunately, members of his family happened to be passing by and helped him get home safely. After a call to his primary care doctor, Gaston’s family took him to the emergency room at St. Tammany Parish Hospital where a CT scan revealed a subdural hematoma, or bleeding between his brain and skull, which caused a stroke. He was admitted and underwent surgery to remove a piece of his skull and drain the blood. Gaston remained in the hospital for the next three weeks as he healed. Once medically stable, he transferred to Northshore Rehabilitation Hospital at the recommendation of his doctors.
Prior to his injury, Gaston was fully independent with all daily living activities, including driving. However, when he arrived at Northshore Rehabilitation, he faced many new challenges including left-sided paralysis, dizziness and difficulty with expression and memory. This caused Gaston to be fully dependent for daily living activities, mobility and transfers from one surface to another. He set goals for himself – to be able to walk again unassisted and to perform all routine activities at his prior level of independence.
Many therapeutic activities contributed to Gaston’s rehabilitation. In physical therapy, he practiced heel-to-toe exercises to improve balance, walking on uneven surfaces and going up and down stairs. In occupational therapy, he received training in dressing and self-care tasks such as showering and shaving. He also participated in activities to improve fine motor skills, such as pinching and grasping, by using therapy putty, picking up pegs and placing on a board and manipulation of nuts and bolts. Speech therapists also worked with him on problem solving tasks and activities to improve short-term memory, reasoning and decision-making.
Gaston recalls the first time he was able to walk from one end of the hospital to the other and back again without stumbling or difficulty. He considered it a turning point in his recovery and told therapists, “I’m going to get better again."
Although he was unable to see his family in-person due to COVID-19 visitor restrictions, Gaston was able to talk to Carolyn and his daughters on the phone every day, and they provided much needed encouragement and emotional support to keep him going.
On his day of discharge, just 10 days after arriving, Gaston walked out of the hospital without assistance and was able to independently perform self-care tasks. His memory had also improved. He couldn’t wait to get home to Carolyn and DuLac. “I’ve missed them very much,” said Gaston.
Gaston looks back on his rehabilitation experience as a positive one. “The people at Northshore Rehabilitation Hospital were very supportive, friendly and helpful,” he said. He also gained insight about himself, sharing “I learned that I’m not bullet proof.” To others experiencing a similar journey, Gaston offered the following advice: “Be careful, be positive and work as hard as possible.”