Road to Recovery: Stroke Survivor Benefits From Physical Therapy

Road to Recovery: Stroke Survivor Benefits From Physical Therapy
October 13, 2021 Janet Long

Most people know that the sooner you get to the hospital after a stroke, the better you will do.

Unfortunately, Heather Lyon didn’t even realize she had suffered a stroke. Not the first one and not the second one, either. At only 35 years old today, a stroke was nowhere on her radar. She assumed the symptoms she was experiencing — tingling and numbness in her head and back of her throat, and fading vision — were from an unrelated heart condition she was diagnosed with at birth that limited her physical activity.

“I couldn’t lift my arms at times,” she said. “This would happen frequently. At one point in time, it happened while I was driving.”

About five years ago, a neurologist discovered scar tissue in her brain from a stroke she never even knew she had. Then, earlier this year after a period of not feeling well and a series of headaches, she was told she had suffered a second stroke.

“I also had similar sensations that I had the first time,” she said. “I can’t believe that I ignored them.”

Heather was fortunate that the nearby Diagnostic & Rehabilitative Center of Morris Hospital has outstanding rehabilitative care with licensed and experienced physical and speech therapists. She needed both types of therapy after her strokes and started with physical therapy last summer.

“My physical therapist gave me her most challenging exercises,” Heather said. “She was wonderful about making sure that I was comfortable and feeling confident in what I was doing. I overcame a lot, including fears. I was so afraid of exercising. She was very calm with me and very patient.”

Much of the focus of her rehabilitation was learning how to breathe properly during physical activity. Strengthening her core muscles was also key.

“The strokes threw off my balance,” she said, “and I was continually falling over, even when I was just standing still for a moment. It happened all the time. We worked on the core exercises to keep me upright.”

Heather also had some difficulty speaking as a result of her strokes, and Morris Hospital speech therapists helped her better her communication.

“I still have trouble getting my words out because I pause a little bit to try to find my words,” she said. “But I have improved a great deal.”

Heather is now back in school, continuing her path to a degree in social work.

“I am incredibly grateful and appreciative of all the help that I received at Morris Hospital,” she said. “My life and my overall health have improved since I did the physical therapy and speech therapy, and I feel that I am more prepared to function better in my life.”