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Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals

Stroke survivor takes first steps in rehabilitation

March 08, 2022

“We should let nature take its course because there won’t be any quality of life.”

That’s what doctors told Karen Byrnes after her daughter, Jackie Nelson, had a stroke. The 36-year-old from Kansas City, Missouri, had just gotten off of work at an assisted living home when a case of vomiting led to something much more serious.

“Her sister found her in the bathroom passed out,” Karen recalled. “She knew something was wrong, and said, ‘Jackie, are you hurting? Squeeze my finger if you want me to call 911,’ and she did.”

Paramedics took Jackie to Menorah Medical Center in Overland Park, Kansas, where she was in critical condition following the apparent stroke. Suddenly, the mother of 12-year-old Roni was fighting for her life.

After spending time in the ICU, Jackie came to Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals in late December unable to talk and walk.

“This was the best place in the country we could get her to,” Karen said. “I felt like Madonna could get her to as far as she could get.”

Karen watched on as Jackie began to make strides in her first week at Madonna.

“The first time they set her up, I cried like a baby,” Karen said. “She didn’t sit up in two months. It was just one miracle after another. Within a few days, she was sitting up.”

That momentum continued for the motivated mother eager to be with her daughter. Leaning on her faith, Jackie spent plenty of time in Madonna’s on-site chapel attending Mass. The prayers followed more progress as Jackie worked hard in therapy. Her determination paid off when Jackie started taking steps and using full sentences with her therapists.

“I think therapists Nicole (Ford) and Emily (Adams) really believed in her,” Karen said. “Nobody lost hope. They never said ‘you reached your goals, and now you’re done.’ Everyone has just been phenomenal.”

Nicole Ford, an inpatient physical therapist at Madonna, says the same about Jackie.

“Jackie worked so hard every day and tried her best, especially when the task was hard,” Ford said. “The first day she walked back to her room from the gym she kept telling me, ‘I’m tired, but I’m going to make it,’ and she definitely did.”

With the help of Madonna’s specialized technology, Jackie improved her balance by using the Proprio 4000. It provides a multidirectional, dynamic platform and motion analysis that evaluates actual performance. After not being able to walk, she increased her walking distance up to 600 feet.

“It feels great to be walking and talking again,” Jackie said. “It’s just amazing. I think Madonna is great.”

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