The right care team can get you back to your life after a stroke

Recovering from a stroke can be challenging, but a dedicated support team can make a difference.

Jim, a 48-year-old logistics and staffing manager, was working from home when he was having a hard time focusing on his computer. He was on a video call when his colleague asked if he was okay. Thinking he might be dehydrated, Jim tried to take a drink of water. It was this attempted motion that made him realize he couldn’t move his left arm.

He began to panic as his colleague advised him to call 911. As Jim waited for the ambulance, the operator told him to secure any pets and unlock the door. After hanging up the phone, Jim got up to unlock the door and it was then that he realized that he couldn’t move his left leg either. Jim called 911 again, this time in a full on panic, as he could hear the ambulance approaching, but he had no way to unlock the door. After the operator was able to calm him down, Jim advised the rescue team to kick the door down if needed.

The medics were able to get to Jim, and with a short ride to Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital Milwaukee, Jim was rushed inside to have a CT scan. This diagnostic scan can quickly show the size and location of any abnormalities in the brain. The scan revealed a hemorrhage, which means a blood vessel had burst, but had fortunately stopped bleeding. He was then brought to the emergency room to be assessed. 

As part of the evaluation, Jim was asked to respond to a number of questions. It was at this  moment Jim realized he was in good hands. He recalled how the ER doctor was very in tune to what he was going through, allowing him to share his fear and distress while also managing his emotions, and keeping him on track to finish the assessment and evaluation.

The initial CT scan showed that surgery would not be needed. Jim had a hemorrhagic brain stroke, which occurs when a vein bursts and blood begins to leak into the brain. Jim hadn’t lost his ability to speak, but was still having trouble moving his left leg and arm. 

Jim was very grateful for the ER care team and nurses that cared for him since he lives alone and didn’t have family close by to support him in the ER. His care team created a plan and organized all the things he would need to do — like contacting his family and employer.They also discussed any other challenges he thought he might have.

Jim recalled feeling so welcomed and cared for. “I knew I was going to be ok,” he said. 

After his evaluation, Jim was admitted into the intensive care unit (ICU) at Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s Milwaukee. His stay in the ICU was at the height of COVID-19, which limited the number of visitors he could have. Jim shared how the nurses and staff were there to support him while we was in the hospital.

After his stay in the ICU, Jim was transferred to the inpatient unit at Ascension Sacred Heart Rehabilitation Hospital where he was introduced to physiatrist Sheila Bhat, MD. She helped him relearn the skills he lost after having his stroke. 

One day, Jim had gone through a couple hours of physical therapy and went to bed. The next morning, he began experiencing pain in his leg. It was determined that he had a blood clot. While this was a frustrating set-back, Jim was very appreciative of the physical therapists who took care of him while staying at Ascension Sacred Heart. “The therapists were really motivating and made me want to get better,” Jim recalled.

Mollie Salisz, PA-C also collaborated with Jim to make sure he had a smooth recovery. 

“During his time at Ascension Sacred Heart, Jim participated fully with each member of the rehab team. He took therapies seriously and also had a positive attitude towards each day. With the help of the therapists, nursing staff and medical team, Jim took the time to educate himself on his health and what to expect during his recovery. Together as a team, we were able to discuss and plan for a discharge from the rehab hospital,” Mollie shared. 

Stroke rehabilitation - life after a stroke

After being released from the hospital, Jim began outpatient rehabilitation therapy. His left arm recovered quickly, however, the blood clot in his leg continued to cause him pain and slowed down his recovery process. His interventional cardiologist, Sasanka Jayasuriya, MD, evaluated his leg and removed the blood blot.

While his recovery will continue to be an ongoing process, Jim was able to work on getting the strength back in his leg. It only took a few months for Jim to start walking on his own with little to no help. 

“There were days I wanted to give up. Mark [my physical therapist] at one point said …‘You can’t go back, you have to move forward. If you’re not strong, I’ll be strong for you,’” Jim emotionally recalled.

While his physical recovery was ongoing, so was his mental and emotional recovery. With a history of depression, Jim was worried about his mental health during his recovery. Going through a life changing event, such as a stroke, can have an impact on one’s mental health. Through the outpatient services at Ascension Wisconsin, Jim was also connected to a mental health therapist. 

“The outpatient services that have been available have been fantastic in my recovery process. Mental health therapy has been a tremendous piece of that,” Jim stated.

Jim’s passion for recovery and getting back to his regular life didn’t stop there. The care teams at Ascension Wisconsin constantly reminded him of how lucky he was and how young he is. This inspired Jim to share his story and help others in their stroke recovery journey. With help from Ascension recreational therapist Barb Redding, Jim was able to connect with a stroke support group where he now volunteers on a regular basis.

Jim’s message for anyone struggling with care after a stroke is, “I would encourage you to trust Ascension Wisconsin, but advocate for yourself and do what feels right for you.”

“My overall care was comforting, healing and a blessing from God that the combination of people taking care of me were there when I needed them.” 

Advanced stroke care in Wisconsin

When seconds count, doctors at Ascension Wisconsin stroke centers work quickly to understand the cause of your symptoms and deliver the care you need. Whether you need rehabilitation services or advanced care after your stroke, we can help. Our care team will help you regain mobility, improve strength, learn management skills, and return to meaningful activity at home and work. Find a stroke center near you or learn more about our inpatient rehabilitation services.