70-year-old Alma Dinnes lives on a farm with her husband and her service dog Bear. Bear saved her life when she had her first stroke by pulling on her nightgown in the middle of the night to wake her. Her husband took her to the hospital, where she recovered. Soon after, Bear realized she was having another stroke. Alma began to realize half of her face was drooping, she had double vision and couldn’t speak. Her husband immediately called for help and a medevac helicopter flew Alma to the hospital in minutes.
The medical team at Dell Seton Medical Center examined Alma and began standard treatment for a stroke: fluids and a shot of tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), which breaks up blood clots that block blood flow to the brain. After seven days in the ICU, Alma stabilized and doctors recommended further recovery at a medical rehabilitation hospital. For that, Alma’s husband, through a large amount of research, chose Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation (BSWIR) – Lakeway.
Bilingual, Alma could easily switch between English and Spanish, but the stroke took a toll, rendering her unable to speak or think in either language. The stroke also caused paralysis on Alma’s right side. “I could not move it at all and all of the muscles were tight – it was very scary,” she recalled.
Alma’s goals upon entering BSWIR – Lakeway included regaining her independence, speaking and returning to her normal lifestyle. To attain these goals, a physician-led team of expert therapists and nurses developed a personalized treatment plan for Alma that included physical, occupational and speech therapy.
Physical therapists started by helping Alma regain strength with small exercises meant to reconnect signals between her brain and muscles so she could begin to craft, paint and make jewelry again, a favorite pastime for Alma. They also helped her adjust her back in order to regain movement on her right side.
Speech language pathologists worked with Alma on recalling words and exercises where she matched items to their names in both English and Spanish, allowing Alma to rebuild her bilingual vocabulary.
Occupational therapists retaught Alma standard daily living tasks such as how to brush her teeth, use utensils for eating and how to easily get out of bed without straining muscles or losing her balance upon standing.
Over a period of two weeks in inpatient rehabilitation, Alma was dedicated to her treatment program. Her milestone moment came when her back was adjusted, making it easier for her to regain the feeling in her right hand. She recalled, “It was like a miracle!”
Thanks to Alma’s determination and the support of her care team and family, she was ready for discharge, stronger, mobile and on the road to being fully independent. Alma plans to return home and continue her recovery at an outpatient therapy center. She looks forward to spending time with her family and beloved service dog.
Alma recalled of her time at BSWIR – Lakeway, “[It was] the best in the area! It has been life changing and if I need to recommend for family and friends, this would be the place. Staff is very sympathetic and understanding of patients' needs.” She leaves this note to her therapists and care team, who supported her through her journey, “I just love everybody here! Everyone is fantastic! With all my heart thank you to everyone!”
For those going through the same experience, Alma has this advice: “Be patient with yourself. Remember that there are many steps to recovery. Have faith in your staff. Allow yourself to rest and sleep when possible.”