Gerald Mills, 67, was enjoying life after retiring from his career as a maintenance supervisor for a large bakery. He was enjoying quality time with wife of 37 years, Alice, their children, seven grandchildren and three great grandchildren. He also kept himself busy playing cards and cooking for the local senior center.
In August, Gerald went in for surgery to repair an obstructed bowel. Unfortunately, there were complications following the surgery. Gerald doesn’t remember much, but two days after his surgery, Alice noticed he didn’t have feeling in his left hand and his speech was slurred. Concerned, she ran out of the room to find a nurse. After performing some tests, they realized he was having a stroke.
For the next six weeks, the acute care hospital team treated Gerald with medication to manage the stroke and several complications including infection, atrial fibrillation and uncontrolled blood sugar levels. It was important to get him stabilized so he could transfer to TriHealth Rehabilitation Hospital for extended recovery.
When Gerald first arrived at TriHealth Rehabilitation Hospital, he was unable to get out of bed, stand or walk without assistance. He was also unable to use the left side of his body for daily self-care tasks.
When Gerald’s care team asked him what his goals were, he said, “I want to be able to get out of bed on my own and walk with a walker, then eventually walk on my own.” To get there, Gerald began a regimen of physical and occupational therapy. On a positive note, his speech had improved enough by the time of admission, he didn’t need further speech therapy.
Gerald’s occupational therapists focused on strengthening his arms, using an arm bike. As his strength increased, they taught him how safely transfer from his bed to a chair. They also focused on teaching Gerald how to perform self-care tasks with limited use of his left arm and provided him with a reaching tool and sock aide to help make daily tasks easier. Using recreational activities, such as playing toss, he was also able to improve his balance and get ready for walking.
In physical therapy, Gerald focused on exercises to strengthen his legs so he could move toward walking again. He started by standing up from the wheelchair, then building his endurance to stand for longer periods of time while keeping his balance doing activities like letting go with both hands and tossing a ball. He also used a stationary bike to increase strength in his legs, and walked using the parallel bars in the therapy gym. Once Gerald gained more strength in his legs, he moved on to practicing walking household distances with the rolling walker in the hallways and taking curb steps.
“When I was able to start walking with the walker, that’s when I reached the turning point of my recovery,” said Gerald. “At first I wasn’t sure if I’d even be able to walk with a walker, but after my first day here I realized I can do this if I work at it.” His long-term goals were to be able to do the stairs and walk 150 feet independently.
Gerald credits his therapy team for helping him improve. “My therapists were very determined to get me back to where I was,” said Gerald. “Without them, I don’t think I’d be as far along as I am now in my recovery.”
Gerald was also grateful for his family who was a great source of inspiration. Alice attended his Care Partner Meeting and received education on wheelchair safety and fall prevention in preparation for Gerald going home. Alice also participated in family training where they worked on getting Gerald out of the wheelchair, standing to the walker, walking and practiced getting in and out of a car.
After nearly three weeks at TriHealth Rehabilitation Hospital, Gerald was ready for discharge. In addition to returning to family, he was looking forward to enjoying a good glass of homemade iced tea and sitting in his recliner.
Gerald learned a lot about himself during his journey. “Never give up, keep the hope, try to accomplish a little something every day and reward your progress.”