In a Stroke, Time is Brain, and Rehabilitation is Essential
Frank Lang, biologist, author, and bird watcher, recovered from stroke and enjoys life again.
After a stroke, even the most simple, daily tasks, or remembering what month it is, can become challenging. Recovery depends on fast action and the right therapy. Frank Lang, retired professor of biology at Southern Oregon University and longtime host of “Nature Notes” on Jefferson Public Radio, knows this very well.
It was the middle of the night on December 15, 2010, when Frank got up to go to the bathroom. "And I just sank to the floor," he recalls. "My wife, Suzanne, asked what was wrong. I was flopping around on the rug. All I could do was mumble." Frightened, she dialed 9-1-1. Paramedics from Ashland Fire and Rescue arrived in minutes and immediately identified it as a stroke. Suzanne insisted they take Frank to Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center, which is a primary stroke center. "So into the ambulance we went."
They arrived in less than 30 minutes. The stroke care team in the Emergency Department quickly stabilized Frank and administered life-saving drugs to restore blood flow to his brain. The fast action of his wife, ambulance, and the stroke team had minimized the adverse effects of the stroke, but the temporary blockage in his carotid artery had damaged his brain. He had left-side neglect, the inability to see or sense the left side of his body, weakness in his legs, balance problems, and memory and thinking problems. "The neurologist tested me and I could only do sixth grade math," Frank chuckles. He needed rehabilitation.
The stroke team cared for Frank around the clock in the neuroscience unit. Immediately, neurologists and therapists began his rehabilitation through exercises to improve his balance, vision, and thinking skills. "And they never said a discouraging word," Frank says.
Frank improved enough to transfer to the Inpatient Rehabilitation Center where patients recovering from stroke, traumatic injury, or severe illness receive intensive therapy for several hours every day. He stayed there for three weeks as speech, physical, and occupational therapists helped him return to a normal life.
"It's the entire top floor of the North Tower of the hospital," Frank recalls. "And it's like a cruise ship. The views were fabulous and the staff was so helpful." They even helped him celebrate Christmas with his family. "But they make you work hard," Frank adds, "every day."
Under the guidance of his physical therapist, he exercised in the gym to regain strength and balance. The occupational therapist helped him recover his motor coordination to eat, write, and do household tasks. Most important for him, the speech language pathologist gave him exercises to regain memory and thinking skills. "A lot of it was word games," he recalls, "What month comes after May? But they worked wonders."
Before going home, physical therapists visited Frank’s home to evaluate how well he could negotiate stairs and the shower. “That required some handrails, which, once installed, made me wonder why we didn't install them when we built the house. But then we weren't thinking thirty plus years ahead,” Frank says.
Hilary Anderson, SLP (r) and Frank Lang (l) in therapy at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center Outpatient Therapy.
After the hospital, Frank continued speech therapy at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center Outpatient Therapy. "I was still having trouble with short term memory and recalling words and colors," Frank says. Speech therapist Hilary Anderson noticed he was having trouble with planning strategies. She used maps as exercises to plan trips. Next, she encouraged him to use an I-pad for brain exercises at lumosity.com (www.lumosity.com). "This technology has made a huge improvement in our therapy," she explains. Frank agrees. "It made all the difference," he says.
Frank still has challenges, but says he has made a great recovery. He hiked on the new Plaikni Falls Trail, at Crater Lake and he is driving again.
"I don't think I would have recovered nearly as much without rehabilitation at the hospital," he says. "And I tell everyone, have a plan: 1) know who to call; 2) know where to go; 3) take your statins; and 4) do not eat the chicken skin! You never know when a stroke will come and your life can change in a heartbeat.”
Stroke patients at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center get skillful care from a team of emergency medicine physicians, neurologists, hospitalists, pharmacists, nurses, respiratory therapists, physical therapists, and speech language pathologists. This highly trained team cares for the patient from the first critical minutes in the Emergency Department to weeks of rehabilitation in the hospital and several months of outpatient care.
To learn more about stroke and stroke care, visit the Primary Stroke Center page.