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Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals

Young nurse proves strokes can happen to anyone

March 03, 2020

Jamie Richards is a registered nurse who knows the warning signs of stroke.  What she never imagined was one day calling herself a stroke survivor.

On Jan. 25, 2013, Jamie, fought a raging headache that she later identified as one of the first warning signs of a stroke. “It was scary because I realized what was happening,” recalled Jamie, a nurse with 14 years of experience. Tests at Phelps Memorial Hospital in Holdrege, Nebraska, where Jamie worked, revealed an artery in her brain became blocked causing an ischemic stroke. She was only 31 years old.

Suddenly Jamie, a busy wife and mother of two teenage girls, couldn’t walk or talk normally. She became disoriented and experienced double vision, memory and cognition issues. She became hypersensitive and too much stimuli made her anxious.

Many perceive stroke as an event that only happens among elderly individuals, but the frequency of stroke among younger patients is increasing. Amy Goldman, PT, DPT and stroke program manager at Madonna, says that today somewhere between 10 and 15 percent of all strokes occur in people between the ages of 18 and 50. The percentage continues to rise.

A week later, Jamie began the intensive stroke therapy program at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals Lincoln Campus. “I knew my deficits coming in and that Madonna was a great place for me,” Jamie said. Throughout her recovery, Jamie pushed through daily frustrations to celebrate successes in physical, occupational and speech therapies. Independence Square, a simulated community, offered Jamie a safe place to relearn to grocery shop, cook, and transfer in and out of a car. “Those were things I took for granted,” Jamie said.

After graduating from six weeks of inpatient therapy, Jamie began Madonna’s comprehensive Rehabilitation Day Program. Five days a week, Jamie became more independent balancing individual therapies with group therapies like cooking and community outings. She found camaraderie in Madonna’s nursing staff who gave their colleague hands-on experience in their training lab, simulating the type of work she hoped to return to.

By spring, Jamie returned home and continued outpatient therapy until August when she transitioned back to work part time. On the one year anniversary of her stroke, Jamie returned to work full time.

Every year Jamie connects with other stroke survivors at the Retreat and Refresh Stroke Camp that Madonna helps sponsor. “It’s neat to see other people’s progress,” Jamie said.

The stroke changed Jamie’s outlook. “It was crazy how I did things; I’m a lot more empathetic now and appreciate life.”

Madonna is a national leader in stroke rehabilitation, offering speech, physical, occupational, recreation, vision and aquatic therapy services on an inpatient and outpatient basis to help maximize a patient’s level of independence and ability to return to their home and community whenever possible. To learn more about our approach to stroke, click here.

To read more about Jamie from the Kearney Hub, click here

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