Not Just Surviving a Stroke, But Thriving
After a stroke, the simplest daily tasks or remembering what month it is can become challenging. Frank Lang knows first-hand that life-saving treatment and long-term recovery depends on fast action.
Lang is a retired professor of biology at Southern Oregon University and longtime host of Nature Notes on Jefferson Public Radio. “It was the middle of the night on December 15, 2010. I got up to go into 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.”
Suzanne called 9-1-1 and paramedics from Ashland Fire and Rescue arrived within minutes and immediately identified Frank’s condition as a stroke. Suzanne insisted they take Frank to Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center, which is a certified Primary Stroke Center. They arrived in less than 30 minutes.
The stroke care team in the Emergency Department quickly stabilized Frank and administered lifesaving drugs to restore blood flow to his brain. The fast action of Frank’s wife, the paramedics, and the stroke team minimized the adverse effects of the stroke, but the temporary blockage in his carotid artery had damaged his brain.
He had left-side neglect, which is the inability to see images on his left side or sense the left side of his body, weakness in his legs, balance issues, and memory and thinking problems. “The neurologist tested me and I could only do sixth-grade math,” Frank chuckles.
Neurologists and therapists immediately began his rehabilitation through exercises to improve his balance, vision, and thinking skills. “And they never said a discouraging word,” Frank says. He was transferred to the Inpatient Rehabilitation Center, where he received 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. But they make you work hard every day.”
Under the guidance of his physical therapist, Frank 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 his memory and thinking skills. “A lot of it was word games and they worked wonders.”
Before Frank was discharged, physical therapists visited his home to evaluate how well he could negotiate the 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 30-plus years ahead,” Frank says.
After leaving the hospital, Frank continued speech therapy with Asante Rogue Regional’s outpatient rehabilitation. “I was still having trouble with short-term memory and recalling words and colors,” Frank says.
Frank Lang working with Hilary Anderson, SLP
His speech therapist, Hilary Anderson, noticed Frank was having difficulty with
planning strategies. She used maps as exercises to plan trips. Next she encouraged him to use an iPad for brain exercises at Lumosity.com. “That technology has made a huge improvement in our therapy,” Hilary says. Frank agrees: “It made all the difference.”
Frank still has challenges but says he has made a great recovery. He hiked on the new Plaikni Falls Trail at Crater Lake and is driving again. “I don’t think I would have recovered nearly as well without rehabilitation at the hospital,” he says. “And I tell everyone, have a plan. You never know when a stroke will come, and your life can change in a heartbeat.”