Gwendolyn's story

Gwendolyn Alphonso, 70, is a wife, mother of two, grandmother of four and part-time accountant from Diamondhead, Mississippi. She loves taking her grandkids to the park and playing board games with her family.

One summer day, she was in the shower when all of a sudden she started leaning to the left and realized she couldn’t move her leg. She tried to yell out to her husband, Leonard for help, but was unable to. To get his attention, she knocked over a bottle of shampoo, and he came rushing in.

As soon as Leonard saw her, he knew something serious was happening and called 911. An ambulance rushed her to a local hospital for an initial examination, an MRI and a CT scan. Unfortunately, both scans came back inconclusive. Unable to determine exactly what happened, the emergency physician recommended she be taken to a larger hospital for additional testing. She transferred to St. Tammany Parish Hospital in nearby Louisiana for further evaluation and treatment. She was diagnosed with a stroke and stayed in the hospital for a week.

As Gwendolyn got closer to discharge, her medical team recommended inpatient rehabilitation for further recovery. She transferred to Northshore Rehabilitation Hospital. Upon admission, she decided that one of her goals would be to walk again.

In physical therapy, Gwendolyn focused on increasing her ability to walk and climb stairs. Initially, therapists worked with her in the parallel bars, then advanced to walking in the hallway with the wall railings. They also worked on weight shifting and balance exercises in addition to using the SCIFIT seated stepper to increase leg strength. Gwendolyn progressed significantly from her total dependence at the time of admission, and her physical therapist was confident she would continue to improve due to her strong motivation to get well.

During occupational therapy sessions, Gwendolyn utilized various fine motor activities to address her coordination and visual deficits, including card and board games. She also performed upper extremity range of motion exercises to increase strength and endurance. Additionally, therapists worked with her to improve functional abilities by teaching her new ways of getting dressed, toileting and bathing.

Gwendolyn started noticing things turning around when one Saturday when she was in the gym, and her physical therapists put pressure on her left leg while lifting her right foot back and forth. “It was very scary because all my weight was on the left leg. When I made it back to my room, I tried lifting my leg and I was able too,” said Gwendolyn. That was a major milestone.

Leonard was also a great support throughout Gwendolyn’s whole journey, from videotaping when she was finally able to move her leg to encouraging her via email and telephone calls.

After 23 days, Gwendolyn returned home to her family, able to walk with a walker up to 150 feet and independently perform most daily living activities. She most looked forward to fixing her hair and getting back to gardening.