Road to Recovery

Rehabilitation after stroke at CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital Corpus Christi – Shoreline, and the importance of recognizing the signs and symptoms of stroke

By: Alexis Mays
Photos by: Fusion Photography

When a stroke occurs, it happens fast. And usually, when you least expect it. For John Olson, it happened on Easter Sunday in 2016. “I was trying to get a drink for my grandson,” Olson recalls. “I couldn’t hold anything in my left hand; I was dropping everything.”

At first, he and his wife, Ann, weren’t sure what was going on. Unfortunately, experts say, this is all too common. According to Dr. Morgan Campbell, a stroke neurologist at CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital Corpus Christi – Shoreline, the signs of stroke can be confusing. “Most people don’t know the symptoms of stroke, but recognizing them and acting fast can save your life or someone you know. It is vitally important that we educate ourselves on the signs and symptoms of stroke.”

When Campbell says, “acting fast,” he means FAST. This acronym is used as a tool to recognize and respond to the typical signs of a stroke. He explains, “F: Face – Is there any facial drooping? A: Arms – Is there an inability to lift arms? S: Speech – is the person’s speech or impaired? And T is time. Call 911, or get to the nearest hospital if you experience any of those symptoms, because time is important.”

John and Ann Olson’s daughter-in-law recognized the potential for stroke, and they rushed to the nearest emergency room. John was treated at a hospital in San Antonio, and his original prognosis was not good. “They pretty much told him he probably wouldn’t live,” Ann says.

In the United States, stroke is the fifth leading cause of death, claiming more than 137,000 lives each year. It is also the leading cause of serious long-term disability in adults, and according to the National Stroke Association, approximately 795,000 strokes will take place this year.

But thankfully, John got to a hospital in time to be treated for his stroke. His family and faith motivated him to fight the disease, and one week later, John was back home in Corpus Christi and beginning his rehabilitation at CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital Corpus Christi – Shoreline.

CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital Corpus Christi – Shoreline is the region’s only Advanced Stroke Center, it has earned the Gold Plus Award from the American Heart/American Stroke Association and it is recognized as an Advanced Primary Stroke Center by the Joint Commission.

John’s condition was scary for him and his wife. Ann recounts, “When he first got there, he couldn’t even get out of the bed on his own.” Doctors had said it could take at least a year before he was walking again.

They weren’t sure what to expect from rehab, but the associates at CHRISTUS Spohn Shoreline immediately exceeded every expectation. “Melinda was my physical therapist, and Danielle was occupational therapist, and they are just awesome.” John says. “All the nurses were great. It was a good experience, considering the shape I was in. But thanks to the help of Melinda and Danielle, it went along a lot quicker than that. I saw progress every couple of days.”

A milestone occurred when John was able to lift his leg instead of dragging it. By the end of his month-long inpatient rehab, John was walking with a modified walker, and three months later, he was walking on his own again.
“His recovery has been incredible,” says Julianne Herrera, M.S., CTRS, a recreational therapist at CHRISTUS Spohn’s inpatient rehabilitation department. “We are so proud of him.”

From a fatal prognosis to inspiring recovery, John’s story has something for everyone. To those on the road to recovery, he encourages them to attend rehab and support groups. And to each and every person, he urges knowing the signs and symptoms of stroke.

“Time is key,” Campbell agrees. “Knowing when to go to the emergency is lifesaving.”

Learn to Act FAST!

FAST is an easy way to remember the sudden signs of stroke. When you can spot the signs, you’ll know you need to call 911 for help right away. FAST is:

F: Face drooping. Does one side of the face droop, or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?

A: Arm weakness. Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S: Speech difficulty. Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?

T: Time to call 911. If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 911 and get the person to the hospital immediately. Check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared.

If you think you are having a stroke, call 911 immediately.

About CHRISTUS Spohn Health System
CHRISTUS Spohn Health System is the region’s largest charity care provider and not-for-profit health care system consisting of six hospital campuses: CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital Corpus Christi (Shoreline, Memorial and South), CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital Alice, CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital Beeville and CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital Kleberg (Kingsville). The health system is consistently ranked as a leading health system in the area, and it has received national recognition for several pioneering programs, including cardiac care, clinical excellence and oncology. For more than 100 years, CHRISTUS Spohn has been distinguished by its high-caliber staff and affiliated physicians, its comprehensive and innovative services and its long history of responding to the needs of the community it serves. For additional information, visit our website at www.christusspohn.org.