Stroke survivors need better longterm rehabilitation

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At 77, Ray Powell is working hard HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital in Newnan to come back from a stroke that seemed to come out of nowhere early on the morning of July 31, 2016.

"I was lying in bed in about four in the morning, and I woke up and it felt like I was going to get tipped out of bed,” he says.

At first, Powell thought he was having a dizzy spell.  

"But it didn't pass, and then I broke out into a profuse sweat,” he remembers.

Powell was able to drop to the floor and crawl to his phone, dialing 911.  He was taken to  a stroke treatment center quickly. But, the stroke caused some damage.

"He had a stroke in the cerebellum, which is the part of the brain that controls coordination and movement quality, “ says HealthSouth physical therapist Leigh Whitton.  “So, his biggest limitations were stability and balance."

The emergency, or acute stroke treatment, was just part one.

Stroke rehab, part two, and Powell began therapy on day one at HealthSouth.

"The first day, I got up to try to walk and they took me out in the hallway, it looked like the walls were slanted,” he says.

"By the second day, the walls were straight again. Someone came and fixed them up I guess,” he laughs.

Powell feels fortunate that he's making progress. 

And, in newly-released 2016 stroke rehabilitation guidelines, a panel of experts from the American Heart and the American Stroke Association says more stroke survivors need access to this kind of long-term, multi-disciplinary approach to their recovery.

The panel says acute stroke treatment is essential. 

But, many stroke survivors also need rehabilitation and support to help them cope with the challenges and disability that can affect them for the rest of their lives.

HealthSouth physical therapist Leigh Whitton says they take a team approach at their hospital, offering around-the-clock care headed up by doctors and nurses who specialize in stroke recovery.

"So you've got physical therapists, occupational therapist, speech therapists, case managers,” she says.  “Everybody is working together and communicating."

This kind of intense in-patient rehabilitation is expensive.

Powell is hopeful Medicare and a supplemental insurance plan he has will cover most, if not all, of the cost of his in-patient hospitalization.

And Leigh Whitton says most patients will only stay here only a couple of weeks.

"Mr. Powell is doing so well, he may not even be here that long,” Whitton says.  “But it will be that bridge to help him get back home safely, back to the activities he wants to do."

Ray Powell feels he's getting closer every day to putting this stroke behind him.

"The important thing for me was to get back and be able to live independently,” he says.