Heather's Story

Heather Penton stands proudly after rehabilitation.

Heather Penton, a 37-year-old mother of three and a former teacher's assistant at Picayune Junior High School, faced a life-altering moment when a car accident left her with severe head and facial injuries. Transported to University Medical Center in New Orleans, LA, Heather's life was uncertain due to bleeding on the right side of her brain. Emergency surgery was her only chance at survival.
After a challenging two weeks at University Medical Center, Heather emerged with the ability to survive but could not walk, faced confusion and had visual issues. Recognizing the need for specialized rehabilitation, Heather's medical team and her mother chose Northshore Rehabilitation Hospital to continue her recovery journey.

Upon admission, the physician-led rehabilitation team worked with Heather to put a treatment plan in place. This required physical, occupational, and speech therapy. Heather struggled to walk, perform tasks, and manage self-care. But she made her goals clear – to walk again and take care of herself.

Her physical therapists focused on restoring her balance and mobility. To address her visual impairment, therapists had her walk in parallel bars and stand on foam, challenging her stability and reaction. Walking with a walker while looking in different directions improved her balance. 

Occupational therapy became the key to Heather's goal of self-care. Her therapists helped her relearn everyday tasks like bathing and dressing safely, and even brushing her teeth. Daily practice made these tasks second nature. Activities like games, puzzles and card matching strengthened her fine motor skills, addressed visual issues and sharpened her cognitive abilities. By discharge, Heather could independently manage basic self-care.

Speech therapy honed Heather's cognitive skills. She tackled math for time and money management, improved her memory and enhanced concentration. Her cognitive progress was remarkable, enabling her to handle tasks like bill payment, calendar management and meal planning in preparation for her return home.

Milestones were numerous. After 16 days of rigorous therapy, Heather regained her strength, walking up to 500 feet with minimal assistance. Heather also recalled a turning point during her Northshore stay – the moment she recognized that she was hungry and was able to feed herself accordingly.

The journey to recovery was challenging, but Heather had her family's love to motivate her. Heather expressed immense gratitude for her family's support during her recovery. 
Her assessment of her Northshore experience was resoundingly positive: "It has been awesome. I love the staff!"

Reflecting on her journey, she learned how to accept help from others. "I learned to sit back and let other people do things for me." Her advice to others in a similar situation is straightforward: "Just go and let them help you."

Upon discharge from Northshore, Heather plans to transition to a transitional brain injury rehabilitation program, where she will continue to enhance her cognitive skills and practice daily tasks, including homemaking and cooking.