“My father always told me that you’re only as good as the people behind you,” said Helen Hillard, stroke survivor at Fairlawn Rehabilitation Hospital. With these therapists behind me, I couldn’t help but improve. They give me incentive to move forward.”
That’s how 83-year-old feels about the Fairlawn clinicians who helped her return to her home following a stroke that left her unable to use her left side.
“When I was transferred to Fairlawn, I couldn’t move my left side from my shoulder to my toes, and my hand was like Jell-O,” recalled Helen, who until her stroke owned and operated a thriving realty company.
Prior to that, she had managed her own interior design company, and as a young woman had been a professional singer, opening for several well-known crooners, including Tony Bennett and Perry Como.
Helen’s first weeks in rehabilitation were no piece of cake. Just two days in, doctors found a blood clot in her leg. Also limited by sternal precautions due to an injured sternum, she was unable to use her right arm to lift, pull or push anything, including her wheelchair. But that didn’t stop Helen.
“This is a woman, who despite all the barriers she encountered, hasn’t give up,” said Jessica Whalen, an occupational therapist who began working with Helen when she could not sit unsupported, stand, get out of bed or transfer in and out of a shower with the help of two people.
With forced use of her left arm and hand and continued therapy, by discharge Helen had regained full motion and use of her left arm. She had also regained 28 pounds of grasp strength, which Jessica says is remarkable. Her trunk control improved to a point where she could complete all basic self care with little or no help from a seated level.
Her progress in physical therapy was just as impressive. With improved leg strength, at discharge she was walking 150 feet with a walker at a slow pace with someone with her. Today, Helen is back home.
“I walk one-and-a-half miles every day in my neighborhood,” she said. “I am doing very well.”