My Mom was moved to a medical floor where she was evaluated by Speech, Occupational, and Physical Therapy. On the first day, she had difficulty speaking, swallowing, holding utensils in her right hand, and moving her right leg. However, my Mom’s cognition appeared to be relatively intact. She was worried about missing appointments and other obligations. She knew her whole week’s commitments. I breathed a sigh of relief, but was still concerned about the other deficits. On day 2, I arrived at the hospital early and was thrilled to find that Mom was able to hold a fork in her right hand and feed herself! When she smiled at me it was more symmetrical and her facial droop was better! AND her word finding was much improved! Spontaneous recovery! The brain was figuring out ways to do the things that the damaged parts of the brain used to do! Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to reorganize and compensate for the damaged part(s) of the brain. My Mom’s brain was figuring out how to get back to normal. People who “exercise” their brain tend to use their whole brain which increases neural connections. My Mom “exercised” her brain more than the average person. At 83, she plays in several bridge groups, reads the newspaper and books daily, is involved in church groups, volunteers at a food bank, is in a book club that has facilitators from universities, organizes a scholarship committee, and plays “Words with Friends” daily. My Mom was moved to the Acute Rehab Department at UH Parma Medical Center where I used to work. She received incredible intensive therapy from some of the best therapists I know. Daily improvement continued! It is now 8 days post stroke. My Mom’s speech is only mildly slurred. Aphasia (word finding) and dysphagia (swallowing) are completely resolved. Her right-side weakness is continuing to improve. Her cognition is intact. And after only 4 days of Acute Rehab, she is being released to home (with supervision) tomorrow! My Mom is remarkable, but she still has work to do. Why did my Mom make such a fast and incredible recovery? She called me at the first sign of a stroke, within minutes. She had medical and therapeutic interventions beginning the first day. AND she exercised her brain daily. Neuroplasticity ROCKS!
Donna Rowan Culley is an SLP who has worked in stroke rehab and is now the daughter of a stroke survitor.