A system of comprehensive care gets a young father back to his family after a stroke
Donald “Barry” Jackson, a 38-yearold father of two, went through his normal routine on July 12, 2011, like any other day. He came home and, feeling fine, he went to bed. But when he woke up just after midnight, he knew something was wrong.
“I was in no pain at all, but I couldn’t move,” Jackson says. “My wife asked if I was OK, and I couldn’t answer.”
Jackson’s wife, Tracey, and her mother managed to get him out of the house and on the way to Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center. Jackson recalls the trip to the hospital as somewhat of a blur.
“Often, people do not feel pain when they have a stroke; however, it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of a stroke, such as sudden inability to speak or slurred speech, sudden facial droop or sudden inability to move a limb,” says Jesse Irwin, M.D., an emergency department physician at Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center who cared for Jackson when he arrived. “Time is brain, and people should immediately call 9-1-1 if they think they or a family member is having a stroke.”
At the Hospital
Jackson had no risk factors for stroke—no high blood pressure, no heart disease and no family history. Dr. Irwin and treating neurologist James Yan, M.D., quickly determined that Jackson was having a stroke and gave him a medication called tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA, which breaks up the blood clots that cause certain kinds of strokes.
Jackson stayed at Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center for two days after his stroke. There, the comprehensive stroke team—which includes a stroke care coordinator, neurologists, hospitalists, cardiologists, intensivists, radiologists, emergency department physicians, case managers, dietitians, nurses, therapists and a physiatrist from Adventist Rehabilitation Hospital of Maryland—determined the underlying cause of his stroke: a hole in his heart.
“As a primary stroke center, Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center offers comprehensive, quality stroke care to all of our patients from the time they enter the emergency department to when they are discharged to either rehabilitation or home,” says Margaret DuFour, stroke program coordinator for Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center.
Rehab Experts Assemble
Additionally, while Jackson was at Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center, the rehabilitation experts at Adventist Rehabilitation Hospital of Maryland, which sits on the Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center campus, sprung into action.
“At Adventist Rehabilitation Hospital, our team of physicians, nurses and therapists help patients like Donald regain the functions that they need to get back to life following a stroke or other traumatic injury,” says Terrence Sheehan, M.D., chief medical officer of Adventist Rehabilitation Hospital of Maryland, where Jackson received inpatient rehabilitation. “Our team helped Donald return back to the active lifestyle that he had with his young family before his stroke.”
For the next month, Jackson underwent intensive speech, occupational and physical therapy with the expert team at Adventist Rehabilitation Hospital. His therapy included learning to walk again. Jackson’s wife and daughters visited him frequently during his stay.
“It was hard, but I did it,” Jackson says. “The doctors, therapists, nurses and everyone at the rehab hospital were really nice and professional, and they worked really hard to make my time there as productive as possible.”
After completing inpatient therapy, Jackson continued coming to Adventist Rehabilitation Hospital, which also has a facility in Takoma Park, three times a week for speech and occupational therapy. The stroke affected the right side of his body more than the left, and much of his therapy involved improving the use of his right arm and hand.
Despite being left-handed, Jackson found the rehabilitation of his right hand to be the most frustrating part of therapy. “The hand is a crucial thing for everybody,” he says. “You don’t realize until it’s gone.”Despite being left-handed, Jackson found the rehabilitation of his right hand to be the most frustrating part of therapy. “The hand is a crucial thing for everybody,” he says. “You don’t realize until it’s gone.”
Return to Life
Jackson recalls how his therapists at Adventist Rehabilitation Hospital worked with him to regain basic skills that were affected by his stroke. Therapists helped him walk better and even helped him run.
Over the next several months, with the help of his therapists, Jackson tried to return to activities that were a big part of his life before his stroke— such as running, swimming, riding his bicycle and taking his daughters to the park.
Jackson returned to work Jan. 3, less than six months after his stroke. As he continues to improve with the help of his therapists and the support of his family, Jackson says the situation gets easier on his wife and family, and they like to take it one day at a time.
“I’m not up to my own standards,” Jackson says, “but I’m getting there.”