While cooking dinner at age 48, Patricia Smith felt a funny feeling go up her arm. After disregarding it and having it happen several more times, she knew that something was wrong. It wasn’t long before her words began to slur, and she lost feeling in the left side of her body. By the time she reached the hospital, she was unable to walk. After running tests on her, doctors confirmed that she had a stroke. At first, she was very upset with the news and felt hopeless. By her second day in the hospital, however, she gained a newfound determination - telling the Physical Therapist that she "plans on walking out of this hospital."
Q&A With Patricia, a Stroke Survivor
When you first had symptoms, did you immediately realize what was happening?
At first, I didn’t think anything of it. However, as I continued to get that funny feeling up my arm, I started to become more worried. I called my daughter who told me to take my blood pressure, which I did. I had a reading of 140/80, which is normal. This confused me even more. As I began to experience more symptoms such as slurring words and loss of feeling, I knew it was a stroke from my experiences with stroke victims from when I worked at a hospital.
How long were you in recovery?
I was in the hospital for a total of a week. On the first day of my stroke, I was very upset over the fact that I had lost my ability to walk. I prayed to God to help me get through it. By the next day, I was determined to regain my ability to walk again. My Physical Therapist got me a walker, and I began to walk with it often to try to train my brain back into the motions of how it feels to walk. By my fourth day in the hospital, I was able to walk again without the walker. By the end of the week, I was released from the hospital and I did some outpatient therapy, however I didn’t need to do it for long because I was able to walk quite well. I also went to therapy for my left hand, but unfortunately, by the end of the second session, it became apparent that I wouldn’t regain full feeling in it.
What types of exercises did you do in your recovery?
Most of my exercises were basic hand therapy actions. I was given a ball to squeeze in my left hand to try and increase my strength in that hand. Another action I performed was simply picking up the ball and putting it down to work on my motor planning. Lastly, I did some exercises where I would put pegs in holes on a board to improve my overall hand coordination and fine motor skills.
What did it feel like the first time you were able to walk again?
It felt amazing. Just to be able to go to the bathroom without a device, without any help, it was a blessing.
Did you have any previous knowledge of what a stroke was?
Yes, I did. My father was affected by 4 strokes throughout his lifetime so I had experience with what it was like. Also, my previous work at a hospital brought me in contact with others that had experienced strokes before, so I knew the symptoms and effects.
What was the effect on your family during this whole process?
I have 3 kids: David (34), Raymond (29), and Tyesha (23). After I had my stroke, my kids were devastated. My sons stayed at the hospital with me every night because they were afraid they might lose me. They were overjoyed when I made my recovery.
Pictured: Tyesha and Raymond
Have you had any more complications since your stroke?
I still follow up with the doctors regularly. The only thing that has happened is that I started to get headaches quite often. After an MRI, it turns out I had several silent strokes and didn’t even know it. I didn’t experience any symptoms other than a headache and it is though they never happened. Overall, I have made an almost complete recovery from my initial stroke and have no issues with walking. My only remaining issue is that I still do not have full feeling in my left hand.
Do you have any advice for those that could be going through a similar stroke situation right now?
My main advice is to never give up faith. I was determined that I was going to be able to walk out of that hospital and I made it happen. Also, having a strong support system is crucial. It is very easy to feel alone in a situation like this where you might feel like the people around you don’t understand.
If you want to read other stroke recovery stories like this check out Annie's story here.
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- EJ KimClinical Manager / Physical Therapist