How memory & movement can be restored in stroke patients

Dr. Irene Pearl at the Loma Linda University Medical Center treated a 66-year-old stroke patient who spent months and a full year in the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, attending several sessions per week and receiving no more than 40 inches of upper-body strengthening exercises per week. The results were startling. Here are the story of Dr. Irene Pearl and her patient, Norma Lashey-Dwyer.

From “Cognitive Rehab: One Patient’s Painstaking Path Through Long Covid Therapy”:

“This is how my strokes happened, and this is my way of dealing with it. This is the first step.” Those are Norma Lashey-Dwyer’s words as she started Cognitive Rehab—an intensive physical, occupational and speech therapy treatment that involves significant surgery and lengthy confinement to an enclosed room.”

Norma Lashey-Dwyer, 66, was two months into her recovery from two strokes when she first set out on her extraordinary journey for cognitive recovery. She was initially put in the Neuropsychiatric Center at Loma Linda University, an intensive outpatient psychiatric facility that offers low-intensity cognitive recovery.

Like many neurological conditions, Norma’s impairments appeared relatively minor, and she was unable to fully understand or express her condition. Among the problems she had to overcome was that she always experienced “wriggling in my chair” when her paralyzed legs forced her to lean over the bed.

Norma wasn’t seeking therapy, she didn’t know what she was looking for, and her understanding of the entire situation was cloudy.

The delay between the stroke, the gradual return of movement in her legs, and the cognitive therapy phase wasn’t always smooth. Norma wouldn’t let the doctor with her use a CD player to help her practice reading or holding a pen.

At some points, there was language barrier, and at other points, it was a matter of memory issues.

Despite the difficulties, Norma was committed to the process and met her goals. She wasn’t the typical patient, but her case demonstrates that cognitive rehabilitation is effective as long as the goal is the same as when she first started: re-establishing her basic everyday functioning.

Norma started Cognitive Rehab in October 2010 and completed the entire process in May 2013. She started by having a stroke-detecting device implanted under her skin and then went through a four-step procedure that successfully restored her ability to tell right from left. The second part of the therapy consists of 40 hour-long weekly sessions in an enclosed room that feature the same treatment she had seen at the Loma Linda outpatient facility.

Throughout the course of her recovery, Norma proved to be tenacious. She had visited Cognitive Rehab numerous times without success, but showed improvement when she returned. This contributed to her signing and writing a brief statement of intent and submitting it to an interview with Time Magazine.

During her time at the Loma Linda Neuropsychiatric Center, Norma saw 28 different therapists. She began with one therapist who was also working with other patients; another therapist who also worked with other patients; another therapist who was also working with other patients; and finally one with whom she was very familiar. She didn’t spend much time with other therapists; instead, she spent her time talking and playing with other patients, although this sometimes didn’t affect her progress.

Without a doubt, Norma needed tremendous patience and belief in herself. She was courageous enough to hold her own. Her experience demonstrates that Cognitive Rehab offers long-term outcome benefits to the patients with persistent depression, apathy, dysthymia and anxiety, to the mid-life and older population.

In other words, Nol’s’ hard work paid off.

This article is from the CNN iReport community. iReporter Albert Alzolan is a 54-year-old retiree living in McAllister, New Mexico. He writes about many areas of interest, including politics, interpersonal and civic relationship dynamics, and his hobby of piano composition.

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