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Patricia: Ischemic Stroke Rehab

The Challenge: No Feeling in Her Right Hand

A longtime volunteer with the American Heart Association, Patricia, 76, of North Huntingdon has helped stuff envelopes asking for donations. One of the items included is a small piece of paper with the warning signs of a heart attack and a stroke.

Years ago, Patricia brought one of these pieces of paper home to the house she shares with her husband, Clyde. She placed it next to the phone, “just in case.”

Little did she know, in July 2016, that piece of paper would help save her life.

Patricia’s day started out normal, although she did feel a bit more tired and weak than usual.

She decided to turn in for the night around 9:30 p.m., unusually early for the self-proclaimed night owl.

Around 2 a.m., Patricia woke up to use the bathroom.

She felt a bit wobbly walking down the hallway. It wasn’t until she went to grab the toilet paper that she realized something was wrong.

“I couldn’t actually feel the toilet paper in my hand, although I could see myself holding it,” explains Patricia. “I thought maybe I had been lying on my hand and it had fallen asleep.”

The Path to UPMC for Ischemic Stroke Rehab

When Patricia realized she couldn't move her hand to wash it, she became concerned. She called for Clyde to get the slip of paper by the phone that listed the warning signs of stroke.

Patricia confessed to experiencing a few symptoms, including numbness in her hand and slightly slurred speech.

To confirm if her symptoms were truly those of a stroke, Patricia took a pen and tried to write her name. When she couldn't do so, she and Clyde knew it was time to call for help.

A half hour after she had woken up, an ambulance arrived and took her to the emergency department (ED) at UPMC East.

Patricia’s ischemic stroke — caused by a blood clot in the brain — affected the right side of her body.

It impaired her:

  • Balance
  • Speech
  • Walking
  • Use of her right hand

ED doctors admitted her to the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute at UPMC East.

The Solution: Hand, Physical, and Speech Therapy

Patricia couldn't open her right hand since the stroke. After a few days of hand therapy, she could finally unfurl her balled up fist. 

She also had physical therapy to learn how to balance and walk normally.

Patricia’s therapists were able to take advantage of the nice summer weather and move some of her therapy outside.

“We went out to the garden area. They had me walk on the grass, sidewalk, and mulch to practice moving on different surfaces,” Patricia recalls.

Speech therapy was another service Patricia received while at the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute at UPMC East.

Her speech therapist, Mike, had her repeat certain words and phrases. This helped strengthen the cognitive connection between her brain and mouth.

She also spoke as many words — starting with the letters “W” and “M” — as she could. This is often a tough task for many stroke patients.

The Results: Home Enjoying Time With Loved Ones

Patricia was anxious to return home and spend time with her friends and family, including her four grown children and grandchild.

“I'm so thankful for the close proximity of my home to the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute,” says Patricia.

“It was easier for my husband and other family members to visit me. I’m also thankful for the fantastic care I received there.”

She wants everyone to be aware of the warning signs of stroke, and pay attention to how you're feeling.

“Even someone like me, who's diligent about staying active and attending regular doctor appointments, can suffer a stroke,” Patricia says.

Learn more about inpatient rehab and speech therapy

To find out more about our services, contact the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute.

Or, visit the UPMC HealthBeat blog to read:

This patient's treatment and results may not be representative of all similar cases.

Read more Rehab Institute Patient Stories.