Karol Falci noticed her body felt weaker than usual. She brushed it off because she had recently recovered from COVID-19 and just assumed it was simply some lingering effects. Then, while taking her mother’s dog for a walk Karol had a second, more troubling episode. She tripped and fell down a few stairs, but thought she had just missed a step. Continuing on, she fell again, only this time she had difficulty getting up. She struggled back to her mother’s apartment, immediately phoned a friend and said, “I think I’m having a stroke.”
Rather than alarm her elderly mother, Karol waited outside for her friend to take her to the ER. But time is of the essence in a stroke, and as her symptoms worsened, she called 9-1-1.
At the hospital, Karol presented with the standard signs of stroke: facial droop, garbled speech and difficulty swallowing. Doctors ordered a series of tests, including a CT scan, MRI, chest x-ray and bubble study of her heart, which confirmed that Karol had a stroke in the basal ganglia area of the brain, the region at the base of the brain responsible for involuntary movements.
Karol experienced intense headaches as well as paralysis in her left arm and leg. She required multiple staff to help her sit up or use the bathroom. To further complicate matters, she was still testing positive for COVID-19 and had to be in an isolation room. Her worst fear was coming true: she was alone and facing a long uphill battle.
Despite her medical, physical and emotional challenges, Karol persevered. As her condition stabilized, Karol knew exactly where her next step take her: Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation (BSWIR) – Frisco, where she was employed as a case manager in the Day Neuro Program. While some might feel uncomfortable being wheeled into their workplace, Karol said it was like coming home. The joy of seeing so many familiar faces provided a kick-start to her recovery.
Karol arrived with two main goals. First, she wanted to improve the function in her left arm so she could return to work. Secondly, she was determined to walk down the aisle at her daughter’s upcoming wedding.
Her physical and occupational therapists were on board, tailoring a treatment plan to help Karol meet her goals. They worked on a range of exercises to strengthen her arm and leg and incorporated electrical stimulation to improve nerve connections. Karol also worked with a robotic arm and was fitted for braces for both extremities. Gait training helped her improve her balance and mobility skills, enabling her to quickly progress from a wheelchair to a four-point cane and eventually a single-point cane.
Not only was Karol ready and able to walk down the aisle at her daughter’s wedding, but to return to work with a reignited passion for what she does. Based on her personal experience, she is looking forward to returning to her role at BSWIR and continuing to help patients like her write their own recovery stories.