Brenda's Story

Brenda Taylor after rehabilitation


75-year-old Brenda Taylor loved her active lifestyle in the greater Chicago area. Living just outside the city in Evanston, Illinois, Brenda belonged to a walking club, volunteered and enjoyed theater and concerts with friends.

But while visiting Texas to bring her great-granddaughter home, her life took an unexpected turn when she suffered a stroke, a sudden event she recognized immediately.

"My arm was like a noodle ... I had no strength, and I tried to stand up and my leg gave out too," Brenda recalled. "That's when I knew it was a heart attack or a stroke. I learned from one of the speakers at my community center that if you have a strange sensation in your arm or leg, it could indicate a heart attack or stroke."

Acting quickly, her grandson drove her to Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Round Rock, where Brenda's other medical challenges were revealed: a hole in her heart, atrial fibrillation, a blood clot and fluid in her lungs.

The aftermath was difficult. Indeed, recovering from a stroke may be one of the greatest challenges a person will ever face, as once-independent Brenda realized. She mentioned, "I couldn't walk by myself, turn over, let alone do all of the things I did daily prior to this." She also had significant weakness on her left side.

Once she was medically stable, her physicians at Round Rock recommended an intensive inpatient rehabilitation program to help Brenda regain her mobility and independence. According to her grandson, Brenda transferred to Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation (BSWIR) – Lakeway because it was the "best hospital around here."

The physician-led rehabilitation team at BSWIR – Lakeway worked with Brenda and her family to develop a treatment plan. Her recovery goal was clear: regain her strength and return to her sweet home, Chicago. "My goal was to be relatively normal or as close to it as possible so I could continue to have a fulfilling life," Brenda said. "I wanted to regain the strength that I needed to carry on."

Her physical therapists crafted tailored exercises to rebuild the strength on her left side. Incorporating many balance and gross motor tasks, Brenda was able to begin walking with assistance, requiring a therapist to help advance her left leg. The team encouraged Brenda to go the distance. "[My therapist] was very encouraging and pushed me beyond my limits," she said. "[He] got me to the point where I could walk without a walker, introduced me to a cane and gave me tons of information and sheets to take home with me so I can continue my rehabilitation process after leaving the hospital."

Her occupational therapist worked with her to improve the dexterity and coordination of her left hand. They also incorporated many dynamic balance challenges along with tasks to help improve her overall independence. "I can honestly say I enjoyed all of the activities I was involved in here," she exclaimed. "It may be tiring, but it was always interesting because it was always something new."

Brenda's breakthrough came when she realized, "I was able to walk on the walker alone without anyone holding on to the gait belt." The belt is designed to help prevent falls. "I felt comfortable doing it alone and I realized with continued exercise that I could do this," she continued. "I'm the kind of person who hates to give up, so I'm going to give it my best shot no matter what."

Her family was her anchor throughout. Brenda fondly recalls her grandson and daughter's loving support, staying with her overnight and making sacrifices to ensure she was never alone.

The support didn't just come from family. "Everyone always extends themselves to help you in any way they can. It has been such a pleasant experience," Brenda expressed. "Extremely accommodating. To the point where someone peeks in my room every 10-15 minutes to make sure that I'm okay. It's been very reassuring being in here."

As Brenda looks forward to transitioning into a senior-friendly condo upon her return to Chicago, her advice to others is straightforward. "Find a center that has your best interest at heart as far as wanting you to do better from day to day and questioning how you felt about the routine today," she said. "I really can't say that about some of the facilities by me in Chicago; they just can't compare to this. The care and the concern here just seems to be different."

Brenda's experience also led to a profound self-realization. "I learned that everything doesn't have to fit into a neat little bag every day," she reflects. "Life goes on. I need to slow down and change the rhythm of my life."