A stroke robbed Dennis Hill’s ability to walk and talk but it didn’t change who he is. Dennis can attest to this statement as he reflects on the two year anniversary of his stroke.
Dennis is a retired registered nurse from Sioux City, Iowa, who suddenly found himself on the patient side after a stroke attacked his brain on Jan. 21, 2010. An episode of extremely high blood pressure was the likely cause of the cerebral hemorrhage that shook 66-year-old Dennis’ world apart.
He had no warning signs for the stroke that blocked the blood supply to his brain. During his month-long recuperation at St. Luke’s Regional Medical Center in Sioux City, Iowa, Dennis underwent two craniotomies, a surgical procedure to reduce swelling on his brain.
Laura Hill described her husband as being highly agitated when he began rehabilitation at Madonna in February 2010. The damaged left hemisphere of Dennis’ brain that controls the spoken and written language reduced his ability to speak clearly. Without his reasoning and logic skills intact, Dennis couldn’t follow simple commands. Partial vision loss caused Dennis to pivot his entire body to address anything in his line of vision on the right side. “It was all very frustrating,” said Dennis, a normally articulate man who is fluent in two other languages. He often struggled to find the right words. “Part of my answers kept coming out in German or Spanish.”
Dennis found a common denominator among his Madonna team. “They were persistent, kind and never gave up on me,” said Dennis. Days full of physical, occupational and speech therapy began the process of recovering his deficits. At times, the road to recovery seemed unending. Laura thought she’d never be able to have another conversation with her husband. “I remember sitting at the dining table at Madonna and thinking how much I wanted to be able to talk to Dennis again,” said Laura, who also is a retired nurse. “The staff reassured me it would happen.”
The safety net during Dennis’ rehabilitation was his special bond with Laura. “They are an amazing couple in their ability to face challenges,” said Ginn Parks, case manager. There were trying days when Dennis told the staff, “the words are stuck in my head,” or “I can see the word, but I can’t say it.” Then Laura would gently coax Dennis with her words of encouragement.
Stroke-related vision problems can be very complex to understand and treat. A pair of specially designed prism glasses played an essential role in helping Dennis cope with his loss of visual field. Technology like the Dynavision 2000, a computerized board, also improved his peripheral vision, reaction time and coordination.
Dennis discharged in April 2011, but his recovery continued with a local outpatient therapy program. In January 2012, Dennis reached a milestone as he voiced support for his candidate at the Iowa caucus. He proudly stood before a roomful of 250 people and passionately stated his points. Laura turned to her husband that evening and said, “Welcome home Dennis, how I have missed you.”