Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals

Nebraska woman rebuilds her life after a stroke

May 30, 2023

“Something doesn’t feel right,” Renee Henry said after she fell trying to sit in her chair. Days later, the 66-year-old and avid quilter noticed her symptoms started to get worse.

“My voice, my speech started to slur, and I started having trouble with my right side,” Renee said. “I would look at my phone and not see or make sense of anything. We knew we had to go to the emergency room.”

At Jefferson Community Health & Life Fairbury Clinic, doctors confirmed Renee had a stroke and provided her with life-saving care. Later, the Daykin, Nebraska native turned to Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals to help her recover.

“We knew this was the best place, and our family doctor heard amazing things about the wonderful people here,” Renee said.

When Renee arrived at Madonna she wasn’t able to move most of her right side.

“I couldn’t raise my right arm, my right leg was too hesitant to walk,” Renee said. But a week later, she started to see her physical and cognitive strength rebound, after hours of daily therapy in Madonna’s specialized stroke program.

“Renee’s therapy focus was improving movement in her right arm and hand, overall coordination and vision, and she did just that,” Emily Wallman, an occupational therapist at Madonna rehabilitation Hospitals, said.

Determined to get better, Renee diligently worked with her Madonna care team and continued to challenge herself and started to see improvements.

“A stroke can affect every aspect of a person’s body – their vision, motor function, speech cognition and more,” Wallman said. “Research shows us that using activities that are familiar to patients can help them recover faster than doing exercises they haven’t tried before. Our goal in occupation therapy was to find tasks that were motivation to Renee and address as many of her deficits as possible.”

Step by step, Renee pushed the cart around Madonna’s grocery store, mimicking her life tasks in therapy. “Grocery shopping is a familiar task to most people, and it gives them a sense of normalcy, even when their bodies feel foreign to them," Wallman said. “Renee had to look to the right in order to see the item she needed following by reaching for the item with her right arm, which targeted a lot of the neural pathways that were damaged by her stroke.”

Renee also used specialized technology, like the ArmeoPower, to help restore the connection between her brain and her right arm and to strengthen her hand and eye coordination.

“The ArmeoPower is an important piece of technology because it gives our patients visual feedback of their movement, which helps reinforce the pathways in their brain that controls arm function exercise and strengthening in patients after a stroke,” Wallman said.

Renee continued to impress her Madonna care team throughout her stay, and after three short weeks of inpatient therapy, she was ready to go home. “It’s been a wonderful experience,” Renee said. “People do miraculous things here; I just thank God that things are going well.”

Now, walking out of Madonna, independently, with her supportive husband by her side, her confidence shined through her smile. Saying goodbye to her care team, “I’m ready to go home, I got my voice back, I am flying down the hallways now,” Renee said.

Wallman found working with Renee to be extremely rewarding, and her positive attitude contagious.

“Having a stroke is a terrifying experience, and it is always a privilege to help people through these situations that change their lives so drastically,” Wallman said. “Renee was fun to work with because she did make such quick progress, and it reminded me why I love my job.” I am always inspired by the courage and resilience of my patients, and Renee was no exception!”

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