Dian Garnett, a very active 62-year-old retired engineer, wife and mother, loved staying active. She exercised with a personal trainer, played golf and enjoyed pickleball. She also walked at least five miles daily. During one of her walks, something strange happened.
“I was walking up a large hill and all of a sudden I felt like my arms and legs did not feel right and my head kind of hurt,” she recalled. “My left side felt very strange.” Dian was having her first stroke.
She walked back down the hill to her car and drove to her doctor’s office. The doctor immediately sent her to the emergency room of a nearby hospital. “They determined I was having a stroke and administered tPA,” Dian said. Doctors administer tPA to patients to break down blood clots. In Dian’s case, the tPA caused more problems than it solved. “I had a reaction to it,” she said.
That reaction led to her second, more severe stroke, which caused bleeding that lasted for hours. Her husband, Jim, anxiously waited for news. “They told Jim that there was ‘no hope’ and I wouldn’t make it,” she recollected.
However, Dian survived. After three days in the intensive care unit, she woke up and spoke to her sister. On her daughter’s birthday, with her family gathered around, Dian’s neurologist asked her about her name and her birthday. “Then they asked me what the date was and I said, ‘Oh, it's Julianne’s birthday. We need to get her a cake.’ This was the first time I actually talked,” she said.
When Dian was discharged from the hospital three weeks later she faced some significant challenges. “I couldn’t really control any of my extremities. No walking. I hurt everywhere and had so much uncontrollable pain,” she recalled. Dian was also having issues with her mental cognition and memory. She had lost a lot of weight, was experiencing vision loss on the left side and was having difficulty communicating with the people around her.
To recover, she needed expert care at an inpatient rehab facility, and she chose Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation (BSWIR) in Fort Worth. “Jim researched it and he knew this was the best,” she said. “He was so happy that I got a bed here and I remember being so happy like I had gotten into a great school...he was literally looking throughout the entire USA and chose [BSWIR – Fort Worth].”
Dian laid out her goals for the rehab team. “My biggest goal was to have pain relief. And, of course, I wanted to be able to walk again and use my legs,” she said. The physician-led team set out a treatment plan that would include physical, occupational and speech therapy and Dian began the hard work of regaining her independence.
She didn’t do it alone, though. Just as they had in the hospital, Dian’s family rallied around her to support her and her husband. “I feel so blessed. My sister, Dawn, has flown down from Indiana for weeks at a time to be here to help,” she said. “My husband has been by my side the whole way. He had such a traumatic experience watching me go through this and to have the support of everyone had helped him as much as it has helped me.” Her friends called on a daily basis and brought food for her and her family. Her daughters visited from California and New York. “My support system is amazing. They are everything to me,” she said.
That support helped Dian remain focused on her therapy, which included some interesting activities. “We did boxing. I loved it,” she said. “One day I mentioned I loved cross-country skiing. My physical therapist brought in a ski pole and we got to use it to practice walking.”
After her stay with the inpatient program at BSWIR – Fort Worth, Dian attended their Day Neuro Program. The Day Neuro Program is a comprehensive outpatient program that provides focused rehabilitation for people who have had a stroke, a brain injury or other neurological disorders. “In Day Neuro, I loved any time I got to do yoga. I also love the arm group,” she said.
In both programs, Dian expressed that she knew she was hitting a milestone in her recovery every time she was able to do something that felt “normal.” Following the treatment protocol has resulted in major achievements for Dian. “I have no pain now. It’s amazing,” she said.
As she continues therapy with the Day Neuro Program, Dian is looking forward to growing her independence, driving again and being able to walk through the grocery store without a device.
When asked about her overall experience at BSWIR – Fort Worth, Dian had a lot to say. “Just, everything has been amazing. The care that has been taken to get me to the next step has been amazing and relentless. Never in our lives have we seen better patient care,” she said. “I’m so grateful for all of them.
“Stay tough, know that you can do this, don’t be afraid and give it all you’ve got. It can only get better.”