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Steve Young, 59, isn't one to back down from a challenge. Since 1991, he's been making his long work commute from Weirton, W.Va., to the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System in Oakland.
With all that time on the road, Steve managed to learn Italian while listening to books on tape. This daily perseverance would prove to be good preparation for the health journey that lay ahead of him.
One Saturday in June 2014, Steve went to a home improvement store in Steubenville, Ohio. He was looking for tools so that he could surprise his newly married daughter by doing work on her house.
As he walked into the store, he heard car keys hit the ground. He looked down and realized they were his.
He bent over to pick them up but couldn’t feel them in his left hand. He kept walking but his left side was giving out.
Steve thought to himself, “This isn’t a good place to be. I think I’m having a stroke.”
A CT scan at a nearby hospital confirmed that he had, in fact, suffered an ischemic stroke.
The next day, his wife heard him slurring his speech in his hospital bed and realized he was having a second stroke.
Steve soon transferred to the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute at UPMC Mercy.
When he first arrived, he couldn’t walk and wasn’t able to stand up without falling down. It took three nurses to get him into bed.
After two weeks at the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute, physical therapists were able to get him up and walking again.
Physical therapists had Steve perform a range of exercises to improve his balance. He also used exercise bands to help regain strength and movement.
Once he started walking again, most of his therapy focused on improving his ability to walk.
Steve also had occupational therapy. He used a hand-operated exercise bike since he had no use of his left hand and couldn't move his fingers.
To retrain his brain to do things he could do before the stroke, he played games on the Armeo®. The Armeo is a computerized machine with a toggle stick that helps improve arm movement.
The repetitive nature of the games helped Steve reestablish nerve connections in his brain.
“The nurses, doctors, and therapists worked very well together. They created a great healing environment that you could thrive and get well in,” remembers Steve.
“The communication between all of us was very good and everyone worked together like a well-oiled machine. My care was excellent.”
Steve had always lived a healthy lifestyle. He ate well and exercised regularly.
But he had a family history of high cholesterol and high blood pressure, which doctors diagnosed him with in his 20s.
Thanks in part to his experience with the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute, he wants to educate others about strokes.
He chose to volunteer at UPMC Mercy after his discharge and now spends every Sunday morning meeting with stroke patients.
“It’s easy to get depressed about your health situation when you’re in the hospital,” says Steve.
“I really enjoy meeting with current patients, telling them about my experience, listening to their concerns, and encouraging them while they recover. It’s very rewarding for me and I’m glad I can help others who are going through what I went through.”
“If you ever need care for a stroke — I hope you never do — go to the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute at UPMC Mercy. I consider it my home away from home.”
To find out more about our services, contact the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute.
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