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Life After Two Strokes

Category: Health Stories
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St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Services helps stroke survivor through physical, occupational and speech therapy

“Compared to my second stroke, my first stroke was nothing,” said Duluth native Jackie Hendrickson. Her first stroke left her weak on her left side, but she could still do quite a bit on her own. “I was walking without a cane, doing dishes and tying my shoes,” she said. Then she had another one.

On February 10, 2019, she woke up and knew something was wrong. “I started yelling out every few minutes, uncontrollably, and I wasn’t really able to stand up,” she explained. Her fiancé, Steven, rushed her to the hospital in Missouri where they were living at the time. They found out she was having a second stroke.

After being in the ICU for two weeks, the hospital for two months and then at an inpatient rehabilitation facility for three weeks, she finally went home April 10. Her left arm and leg were almost completely paralyzed, but her fiancé diligently took care of her. “He helped me do everything,” Jackie explained.

Then only five months later, Steven had a sudden massive heart attack and passed away. Unable to care for herself or live independently, Jackie moved back to Duluth to be near her family.

She was determined that it wouldn’t be the end of her story. “I couldn’t let grief take over,” she said. “I knew I had to do something.” She established with a primary care provider at St. Luke’s who referred her to St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Services, and she started her journey of recovery.

Committed to getting stronger
Jackie met every week with a physical therapist, an occupational therapist and a speech therapist. She couldn’t carry things in her left hand or walk without a cane. She was unable to shower, dress herself or brush her teeth. She could barely swallow or have a conversation. Her physical therapist helped her walking, her occupational therapist helped her learn how to do daily activities again, and her speech pathologist helped her with speaking and swallowing.

While she worked hard at all three, speech therapy presented some of the biggest challenges. “It’s a lot of work to swallow and talk,” she said. “It’s something you take for granted.” Haley Day, MA, CCC-SLP, Jackie’s speech pathologist, gave her exercises to help strengthen her speaking and swallowing muscles. “I always tell people: I’m not magic,” said Haley. “I can give patients exercises to do outside of therapy and those who do them get better.”

Jackie set aside time each day to do her exercises. “I take an hour in the morning,” she said. “I sit down and do my PT and OT exercises. Then I do my lip and swallowing exercises when I watch TV. For one, you have to stick your tongue out and swallow. That is hard to do, trust me.”

After three months of hard work her efforts have started to pay off.

Hard work, great results
Now, Jackie lives independently. She can walk without her cane, use her left hand and take care of herself. She can talk with others and swallow better. “I’ve come a long way,” said Jackie, “from lying in a hospital bed and not being able to talk or eat a year ago, to living on my own. Two months ago, I couldn’t have a conversation. Now, people can understand me again.”

Haley is happy with the progress Jackie has made. “It’s really rewarding for me because it’s rewarding for her,” she said. “It just goes to show how dedicated Jackie is to getting better.”

Most of all, Jackie knows Steven would be happy with her progress. “He wouldn’t want me to just sit around,” she said. “I know he’d be very proud of me.”

Even with all the progress she’s made, Jackie still sees a long road ahead of her. She hopes to move from her apartment into a house so that she can own dogs again. She also plans on being able to drive eventually. To reach her goals, she continues to meet with her therapists. “They have given me so many tools,” she said. “They’re very helpful and interested in seeing me get better. They’ve all become really good friends of mine.”
 

Rehabilitation Services at St. Luke’s
When Jackie was initially looking to start the recovery process, there was no question about where she would be going. “I was born at St. Luke’s,” she said. “It has always just been our hospital. I’m very glad I went there for my therapy.”

Director of Rehabilitation Services Brett Osborne says helping patients like Jackie on a daily basis is what drives his entire team. “St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Services offers an amazing opportunity for our patients to be a key part of their own rehab team,” he said. “Our experts partner with them, helping them recover maximum function after an illness or injury through education, training and empowerment.”

If you think you could benefit from physical, occupational or speech therapy, talk to your primary care provider about a referral. To establish care at St. Luke’s, call 218.249.400 or visit ChooseStLukes.com.

This article was published in the 2020 June issue of the Woman Today. 

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