Vannessa Hill is a 39-year-old mother of five who has worked in the admissions department at Harris Hospital in Fort Worth for 12 years. Although she has seen hundreds of people come to the hospital for various reasons, she never thought that one day, she would be among them.
Early one morning in September, 2019, Vannessa woke up, but as she tried to get out of bed she kept falling to the floor. “I remember lying there, calling for help and then losing consciousness,” she said. “My daughter, Dynasty, asked me, ‘What’s wrong?’ and quickly called my mom, Peggy. My mom immediately called 911.”
She was rushed to the ER, where doctors determined she had a stroke. “When I woke up in the hospital, I felt swollen … my whole right side felt numb. I had a tube down my throat to help me breathe. My husband Paul was there. I recall lying there feeling helpless and confused especially as to where my children were. The doctors were concerned I wasn’t going to survive.”
After about three weeks, Vannessa’s condition stabilized and she turned to Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation – Fort Worth (BSWIR-Fort Worth) to begin the long road to recovery. Upon admission, Vannessa had little feeling on the right side of her body and was unable to stand or walk. She had significant difficulty eating, showering and performing routine daily tasks. She also had trouble communicating, understanding simple directions, carrying on a conversation or even responding to simple yes/no questions.
“But I was determined to get better and had the motivation to say, ‘I’ll show you!’” she said. Her doctors, nurses and therapists created a treatment plan to help her meet her goals. Vannessa worked closely with her physical therapists to build strength and endurance through gait training and other activities. Her occupational therapists provided the exercises and strategies to complete self-care with increasing independence. In speech therapy, Vannessa participated in interactive sessions that enhanced her comprehension and critical thinking skills.
By the time she was discharged from inpatient rehabilitation, she was able to walk with minimal assistance and was showing tremendous improvement in communication. She even wrote part of this story in conjunction with her speech and cognitive therapies.
Vannessa continued her rehabilitation in the Day Neuro Program at BSWIR-Fort Worth. Through this highly specialized program, she has built on the progress she made during her inpatient stay and is now speaking in three-to-four word phrases, reading better and walking without assistance. At home, surrounded by her loving family, she is able to prepare meals, perform household chores and once again do the things we often take for granted - like getting dressed, brushing her teeth and exchanging hugs with her kids.
“Physical, occupational and speech therapy continue to be fun. My speech isn’t where I want it yet, but it’s getting better,” she says.
Vannessa plans on driving and returning to work as soon as she is able. Given her determination and the loving support of her family, she is confident it’s only a matter of time.