Living Life After Stroke Strikes

Sam working with a speech therapistWhen Sue Boh lmann's two-year-old son Sam woke from his nap, his left arm didn't move and his walk was "off." Sue brought him to the emergency room right away. A CT scan and several other tests later, Sue received news no mom wants to hear—her son had suffered a stroke. "I didn't believe it," she says. "I told the doctors it wasn't possible, but unfortunately it was."

Sam was diagnosed with Moyamoya disease—a rare disorder that usually affects children. It's caused by blocked arteries at the base of the brain. Sam's initial treatment included brain surgeries to promote blood vessel activity. But after his fourth and final stroke, Sam lost his ability to speak, walk and swallow and he needed a feeding tube. "He couldn't sit up so he had to be put in a baby walker. It was devastating," says Sue.

Six months later, tests showed that the surgeries were successful and blood was flowing properly to Sam's brain, news that allowed Sue and her family to focus on the physical impairments the strokes left behind.

One-stop rehab

Sam began working with Shelley Payne, a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) and Augusta Health's Recreation Therapy Supervisor, and her team of specialists. This rehabilitation team focuses on improving Sam's physical functioning while providing strength and support for him and his family. "It's a sudden, new way of life for patients and their families and we're here to help them come to terms with it all," says Payne.

Sam, now 12 years old, visits Augusta Health four times a week for speech, occupational and physical therapies. "Augusta provides us with everything we need, so Sam can get all of his therapies in one place," says Sue. "The rehab staff is amazing. Doing all of this rehab could be tedious for a 12-year-old boy, but the staff is so dedicated to keeping Sam motivated. They focus on what he needs to work on. Sam's whole life is incorporated, whether it's something a teacher at school suggests or his baseball coaches point out."

The care and treatment Sam receives at Augusta Health and the hard work he and his family have done have reaped great benefits. Sam walks, runs, plays baseball in a special needs baseball league and loves to be outdoors. And he's learned to use a talking device to communicate. "It's opened up a whole new world," says Sue.

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Augusta Health's Rehabilitation Program

The treatment care team at Augusta Health is made up of several healthcare professionals who attend to patients' medical, physical, emotional, social, and recreation needs. Therapy includes traditional rehab (working on strength, balance, range of motion, and speech) with innovative programs such as education, community re-entry, home evaluation, aquatic therapy, and animal-assisted therapy.

Stroke? Act F.A.S.T

A stroke is a brain attack that cuts off vital blood flow and oxygen to the brain. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States and a leading cause of serious, long-term adult disability.

Don't delay in assessing symptoms. "Treatment time is critical," says Shelley Payne, CTRS. Augusta Health physicians can give patients a clot-busting medicine called tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA, within three hours from the onset of the first sign of a stroke for patients who qualify for such treatment. Time lost is brain lost. If you or a loved one has symptoms, get emergency care.

Here’s an easy and F.A.S.T. way to recognize and respond to stroke symptoms:
  • Face. Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
  • Arm. Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • Speech. Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Does his or her speech sound slurred or strange?
  • Time. If you observe any of these signs, it’s time to call 9-1-1. Every minute counts in treating stroke.

Get The Support You Need

The Shenandoah Valley Stroke Club support group promotes stroke education for patients, families and caregivers in the community. To learn more, call Shelley Payne, CTRS, coordinator of the Shenandoah Valley Stroke Club, at (540) 33 2-4047.