What is a Stroke?
A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts. When this happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood – and oxygen – it needs, so it starts to die.
A stroke can result in difficulties in moving around, performing daily activities, and talking or understanding. The type and extent of the difficulties depends on the size and location of the stroke.
Stroke warning signs and risk factors
Warning signs of stroke include sudden:
- Numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body;
- Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding;
- Trouble seeing in one or both eyes;
- Trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; or
- Severe headache with no known cause
Certain risk factors for stroke are hereditary, while others may result from lifestyle choices. Some of the risk factors for stroke that can be changed, treated or controlled are high blood pressure, cigarette smoking, diabetes, carotid or other artery disease, atrial fibrillation, poor diet, physical inactivity or obesity.
A stroke patient’s greatest gains are usually made in the first 30 days following the stroke. Stroke rehabilitation consists of a coordinated treatment plan developed and implemented by specialized physicians, therapists and nurses.
Stroke rehabilitation programs, like that of HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Altamonte Springs, help patients adjust to the emotional and physical changes following a stroke. With the goal of returning patients to independent living, therapy teams work to retrain the ability to perform daily tasks and move safely at home and in the community.
Stroke rehabilitation at HealthSouth Altamonte Springs includes patient and family education, support groups, respiratory therapy, neuropsychology and a team of skilled therapists who use technology like the AutoAmbulator®, a robotic treadmill device that assists in replicating normal walking patterns; and VitalStim®, which electrically stimulates swallow function.
Returning to Independence
Each day, stroke rehabilitation helps people return to a more independent lifestyle. Ask Ray Cope, a former HealthSouth stroke patient and a 28-year math and science teacher, track coach and technology coordinator.
In March 2015, Ray was snowshoeing and cross-country skiing when he noticed he was experiencing claudication, cramping pain in the leg caused by obstruction of the arteries. He began working out even harder to try and strengthen himself, but the pain worsened. In November 2015, Ray learned he had a blood clot in his leg and needed bypass surgery on the artery. It was during his stay at the hospital he experienced a hemorrhage and was showing signs of stroke.
From that point forward, Ray remembers nothing until Dec. 22, 2015, 11 days into his inpatient rehabilitation stay. He was unable to walk or stand when he arrived at the hospital and was in a comatose state, but was functioning well aside from his left-sided weakness and vision cuts.
“He could remember the Pythagorean theory,” said Ray’s wife. “His root memory was there, but he couldn’t put all of the pieces together.”
On December 22, Ray’s wife arrived at the inpatient rehabilitation hospital to visit with him. He told her, “I have a doctor’s appointment today at 1 p.m. to get my eyes checked,” and she knew he was back.
“It was like a light switch came on and I remembered everything before the stroke,” said Ray.
“So many people made a difference in his outcome,” said his wife. “We continue to go back just to visit because the people at the hospital were like family.”
Ray walked out of the HealthSouth hospital on January 4, 2016. His journey from his comatose state and needing maximum assistance to returning to work as a teacher and track and field coach is an inspiration to many.
Where You Go Makes a Difference
According to the recent adult stroke rehabilitation guidelines released by the American Heart Association*, whenever possible, stroke patients should be treated at an in-patient rehabilitation facility rather than a skilled nursing facility. While at an in-patient rehabilitation facility, a patient participates in at least three hours of rehabilitation a day from physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists. Nurses are continuously available and doctors typically visit daily. An in-patient rehabilitation facility may be a free-standing facility or a separate unit of a hospital.
HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Altamonte Springs is a 50-bed inpatient rehabilitation hospital that offers comprehensive inpatient rehabilitation services. Serving patients throughout the Seminole, Orange, and Osceola Counties, the hospital is located at 831 South State Road 434 in Altamonte Springs. For more information or to schedule a stroke-risk assessment, call HealthSouth Altamonte Springs at 407 587-8600 or visit HealthSouthAltamonteSprings.com.
*Source: American Heart Association, Inc.