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Ohio native Gretchen — a 44-year-old mother of one — prides herself on being fit, eating well, staying active, and being healthy. That's why she was surprised to notice pain at the base of her skull when visiting the hairdresser in February 2016.
Gretchen called her doctor. She explained that it felt like she had a bruise at the nape of her neck but there was no bump.
The doctor wasn't able to find a cause so she sent Gretchen home with pain medicine and the discomfort went away.
Then, in May, Gretchen got laryngitis and had a very bad cough.
It seemed like a normal springtime virus, so she didn’t think much of it.
Four months later — after making dinner and cleaning up — Gretchen sat down to relax in a recliner near her husband, Kenny.
She tried to tell him that she wasn’t feeling well but he couldn’t understand anything she was saying. Gretchen was slurring her speech and her vision was blurry.
Kenny took her to the hospital right away, where doctors determined that Gretchen had suffered a stroke.
The stroke affected the entire right side of her body. She couldn’t walk or stand on her right leg.
She had some speech issues and wasn't able to think of certain words.
To regain use of her right side, Gretchen went to the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute at UPMC Montefiore.
She began her rehab with resolve and a positive attitude even though she had:
“My physical therapist, Yuliya, was amazing. At first, I couldn’t feel my right foot on the floor but four days after my last stroke, I could feel it again. It was all those exercises Yuliya was having me do.”
Gretchen had occupational therapy (OT) to help her use her right hand, while using her left hand for guidance.
During OT, she re-learned how to:
Kenny visited Gretchen often to provide emotional support. He even brought her beloved dog, Callie, along for a visit, which brightened Gretchen’s spirits.
The cause of Gretchen’s ischemic stroke is still undetermined. The pain at the base of her neck could’ve been from a blood clot that shook loose when coughing a lot in May.
“My case is proof that you never know what will happen and strokes can occur at any time,” says Gretchen. “But with my family support system and therapy at the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute, I was able to regain use of my right side and get back to my life.”
To find out more about our services, contact the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute.
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