In late January, 58-year-old Timothy Smith, an inventory control manager, was overcome by an “odd” feeling while driving. He pulled over and dialed 911 before passing out. Emergency crews found him next to the car, unconscious, and rushed him to the hospital, where scans revealed he had a stroke.
Tim spent the next two months in the hospital, but was still unable to sit, stand or walk without assistance. He had difficulty speaking and required a feeding tube for nutrition. The stroke also left the husband, father and grandfather visually impaired, unable to move his eyes in any direction.
By March, Tim stabilized and was transferred to SSM Health Rehabilitation Hospital – Bridgeton. His wife, Valerie, brought along a communication board, which Tim used to communicate his initial goals of walking, talking and eating again. A physician-led team of therapists and nurses created a plan to help him succeed.
Speech therapists provided vocal and oral motor drills to help rebuild connections between Tim’s brain and body. In a week, he could speak simple, though slurred, words. They also worked to restore his swallowing capacity and, as his reflexes improved, he was able to transition to a modified consistency diet with thickened liquids with the help of his dieticians and have the feeding tube removed.
Tim work closely with his physical therapists, focusing on sitting balance and improving leg strength. He soon progressed to standing and took several steps using parallel bars for support before graduating to a walker. He also benefitted from time spent on the Lokomat, a treadmill training system that uses supported body weight and robotic leg braces to assist with basic walking motions.
“Every time we walked, we would go just a little bit farther,” Tim said.
Occupational therapists integrated self-care tasks into the daily routine. Modified utensils, toothbrushes and plates, and other adaptive equipment gave Tim greater independence in daily tasks. His family participated in several training sessions to prepare for his return home. Their support, and seeing daily improvement, provided additional motivation.
Additionally, occupational therapists worked to address Tim’s lack of eye movement by teaching him ocular range of motion exercises and providing a power wheelchair and training Tim to use his neck/head movement and peripheral vision to see his environment and steer the wheelchair around obstacles. Therapists also completed visual scanning activities on the BITS (Bioness Integrated Therapy System), an interactive touchscreen with software that aids in therapy by enhancing eye movements as well as speed and span of recognition.
As he continued to progress, Tim’s personality re-emerged. Therapy sessions became fun and full of sarcastic conversation. After 56 days, Tim was ready to go home. He could walk with assistance and use a power wheelchair independently as needed.
Tim’s therapists said that his exceptional motivation and family support contributed to his significant progress during his rehabilitation stay. Tim gives his therapists credit, too, stating “I love my therapists. They pushed me hard, but it helped,” he said. “My family was also key. I couldn’t have done this without them.”
Tim will continue rehabilitation at Bridgeton Day Institute and looks forward to seeing his children and grandchildren again.