Amber Becker vividly recalls Nov. 20, 2019. “I woke up and my left side was numb,” Amber said. Getting up to feed her newborn son, Maddox, she attributed the left-sided numbness to sleeping funny on her side. “That’s all it felt like, just pins and needles.”
When the numbness didn’t subside, however, Amber next consulted her obstetrician. He recommended the emergency department as her next step. Amber walked into the hospital on her own two feet but says her health continued to decline quickly in the following days.
Amber’s stroke-like symptoms increased to the point where she had lost the ability to move her left arms and legs, had difficulty speaking and facial drooping. Transferring to a new hospital that specialized in stroke care, Amber said further tests and scans confirmed it wasn’t a stroke, but doctors were unable to pinpoint an exact diagnosis.
Rehabilitation was the next step in Amber’s recovery journey. She chose Madonna’s Omaha Campus and arrived on December 3 to full days of occupational, physical, speech and recreation therapy sessions. A teacher by training, Amber strived to be a model patient, even on tough days.
“I want to be somebody that works hard, somebody that has a good attitude. There are days when therapy is a big task and feels overwhelming,” Amber said. “It’s those days I just keep telling myself, ‘I can do it.’ Even on the days I don’t feel up to it.”
To keep her spirits high, Amber decorated her hospital room walls with lots of family photos and bright, cheery posters with motivational quotes on them. She also wore custom-made T-Shirts with her favorite Bible verses and personal mantras printed on the front. She drew strength by encouraging other patients in the therapy gym. She slowly progressed from a wheelchair to walking with a cane or holding on to a hand rail. “I’m starting to get some function back in my arms slowly but surely,” Amber said.
Amber’s family and friends made regular visits during her inpatient hospital stay. Her husband, a high school athletic trainer, was her biggest cheerleader. Brigham assisted whenever he could—whether assembling enchiladas in the kitchen, holding her gait belt while they walked to a therapy session or sitting and catching up after a long therapy day. Even the couple’s young children—Myles, 4, and 2-year-old Aleigha—were incorporated into therapy sessions. “During an occupational therapy session we focused on being on hands and knees, so that when I go home, I can safely get down on the floor and play with the kids. Also working on gaining overall strength in my arm too so I can pick up the baby. Just being a mom and playing around,” Amber said.
“I’ve heard her mention a thousand times, ‘I have to be get better for our kids.’ And I think being a mom is up there on the top of her list of things she wants to get better for and be able to do,” said Brigham.
Amber discharged in early January and immediately began Madonna’s intensive outpatient Rehabilitation Day Program, making more progress. “I can grasp things with my hand. My speech is intelligible.”
Further tests and a trip to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, confirmed Amber’s stroke-like symptoms were a result of a rare form of multiple sclerosis (MS) and require additional therapy. Amber chooses to remain positive, focusing on her young family, friends and how far she’s already come.
“I’ve just been telling myself, ‘I will get better. I will improve.’ Madonna is a very special place. We are very grateful to be here.”