[This article is the fifth in a series of articles on this topic. Others will be completed at later dates.]
After eleven days in rehab at Pecan Creek, Paul picked me up, and I returned to the Terrell’s where life took on its familiar pattern pre COVID. The question that remained was whether or not Day Neuro would take me back after having COVID. I asked my GP to provide a referral to Day Neuro since I had tested negative for COVID. The only thing left to do was wait. God’s providence shown through again. Only three days passed, and I received a call from Devlin at Medical City that I could return to rehab. I was set once again to engage this fine facility and group of therapists for all three therapies: physical, occupational, and speech. God’s grace displayed itself through the Terrell’s who transported me to and from Medical City three days per week. Paul and Jean’s daughter, Amy, transported me often, and on the drive into Denton from Collinsville, we would listen to Harry Potter audiobooks. The grace of God has many ways of showing itself. If our mindset is not right, we can easily miss how God’s lovingkindness works in our lives.
Medical City: Home Away from Home
Having gotten back on track at the outpatient rehab at Medical City, I discovered that it was a place with which I would gain much familiarity. The facility scheduled me to be there three days per week, three hours per day, for a total of nine hours a week. The work would be consistent, intense, and fruitful. The therapists there provided a tailor-made work out program for me that fit my needs perfectly. Each day, the facility scheduled a three-hour slot that entailed all three therapies. After having taken some time out for COVID, the therapists recognized I had more energy than I had previously to COVID. I reckoned this fact to be due to the infusion treatments I had received. I recognized that my energy level was up, so I was ready to engage rehab. I recognized God’s hand in everything, having returned to Day Neuro. I couldn’t have been at a better place for what my body required.
Rebecca served as my primary physical therapist, but others worked with me as well in this modality. Upon returning to Day Neuro, I was still wheelchair bound, but I had learned to do some things on my on, and I could transfer from the wheelchair to other activities without having to be lifted or carried by anyone. Physical therapy challenged me to move more, stand more often, and retrieve some of the balance taken away by the stroke. For the scheduled three days, daily routines included parallel bars, workouts on a stationary bike, standing from a setting and prostrate position, and walking practice with a roller. Progress felt slow but upon reflection, due to the skill and the persistent challenges by the therapists, my progress accumulated at an amazing speed. From my perspective, the balance exercises frustrated me the most. Constantly I experienced the angst of falling, but I never fell once the entire eight months I rehabbed at Day Neuro. I also worked with Mark, another physical therapist, who had attended Baylor, and was a solid Christian. Once again, God had placed me in a truly blessed environment. Every therapist had a particular saying that I remember. I hated mistakes, mishaps, and setbacks that I experienced. Rebecca and Mark would remind me that two steps forward and one step back was what rehab work was all about. Frustration on my part was nothing more than a blinder that would get in the way of what I had to learn. God most definitely used rehab work to teach me patience, a fruit of the Spirit, which I had not cultivated all that much across my life. I’m certainly not saying that I’ve cultivated it now, but I learned more about patience during this time than I had ever known before. Other exercises included the challenge of stepping up onto and over certain obstacles, as well as navigating a set of steps to ascend and descend. Three days a week of intense work paid high dividends following my eight months’ time spent there.
Alex was my primary occupational therapist along with Carolyn. Although some of the occupational exercises overlapped with the physical therapy – e.g. walking with roller and cane – much of the occupational therapy focused on coordination skills, especially with my left hand that had been hit hard by the stroke. Exercises included working with cards, blocks, WiFi, puzzles, and weights, all targeting my strength and coordination. Alex had a saying that I remember fondly. I became overly frustrated with the WiFi tennis game. Noticing my frustration, she would say it doesn’t matter if you win the game but how well you’re learning to maintain you balance as you play. At the end of every tennis match the little figures on the WiFi would jump up and down as a statement appeared informing me that I had lost another match. I really got ticked at those little figures. Alas, Alex was right. I engaged several other activities in Occupational therapy that proved to be very practical. I worked on some typing skills, which helped me work on my computer at home. I also practiced transferring laundry from a washer to a dryer, then hanging the clothes up on a rack. The practice of buttoning the shirts increased the coordination in my left hand immensely. Additionally, this challenge provided me with confidence that I could engage some practical everyday functioning. Another challenge entailed the use of a storefront to shop for canned and other packaged items that I would place in a cart, and then return each item to its place on the shelves. This work challenged my standing balance and the coordinated use of my right and left hands. Carolyn helped me walk with a roller and cane. Her saying was that I was always harder on myself than anything else. Eight months of occupational therapy led to some great strides in my balance and coordination. One final task I accomplished involved my own cooking as I prepared some soup for a small lunch one day. It felt to me as if life was getting back on track.
Kayla worked with me as my speech therapist. The cerebellum stroke had paralyzed my left vocal cord. As I have stated in previous articles, my speech had reduced to a whisper, but eventually returned with a gravelly voice, causing me to sound like a bullfrog, although I’ve never heard a bullfrog speak. Kayla continued the swallowing exercises and e-stem work that Melissa had started at Denton Select. She increased the exercises, however, challenging me to do more swallows, including tongue-pinch swallows and what she called hard swallows. I began three different swallowing exercises with a fifteen-count and worked up to a 20-count. She also continued with the tongue exercises that Melissa had established. Kayla added timing to the tongue exercises so that my tongue received a good work out. I felt right away how both the swallow and tongue exercises affected my throat area and my speech. Kayla added a wonderful exercise that we called towel-crunch exercise. I used a rolled-up towel and would hold it under my chin against my throat for a full minute. Following that exercise, I would then do thirty crunches with my chin pressing the towel again to my throat. Without fail, both Kayla and I recognized that my voice would be stronger following the towel-crunch work. A perk in doing speech therapy included practice with certain foods to see how I could handle swallowing them. Ice chips, water, apple sauce, apple juice, and different forms of candies provided a good reinforcement for the work. After several weeks of speech therapy, I found an ENT doctor at U.T. Southwest in Dallas who injected my left vocal cord to see if it could begin to work again. My voice returned in full force for a couple of weeks, but defaulted to slight hoarse-sound bellowing from my throat. The good thing about the injection is that it removed the extra effort I was expending to talk in any length of time. Though my voice is hoarse today, I still do not have to expend any effort to carry on a conversation with someone. Kayla worked with me on voicing, blowing out air through a straw for as long as possible, and saying certain letters of the alphabet, holding the sound for as long as I could. The speech therapy reached its max not too long before my discharge date. I felt that my voice strengthened during my time with Kayla, as well as my ability to swallow certain foods. In fact, I begin to experiment with certain foods, which led to a saying that Kayla reiterated time and again. When I would tell her with what I was experimenting, she would say I can’t tell you not to do that, but I can say that I do not recommend it, which is something you need to know. I truly appreciated her skill and concern, but I must confess that I continued to experiment.
My discharge date from Day Neuro fell on October 6, 2021, three days short of exactly one year since my stroke. The work they put me through there did wonders for my body. When I began my time there, I was wheelchair-bound. Over the eight months of rehabbing, I graduated to a roller, and eventually walking with a cane. Presently I utilize a cane, and at times I practice walking without the cane if I’m on a smooth surface. If I do a long walk here at Good Samaritan out by the lake, I’ll still use the roller. However, the next goal is to engage the long walk with the cane. I well remember the day at Paul and Jean’s home when we put the wheelchair in storage. I hope soon to retire the roller.
This article is next-to-the-last article I’ll write on this topic. I can say without a doubt as I look back on events, God guided me everywhere I ended up. He guided me to the facilities and the very people with whom I worked, and no better plans could have been made. As I think back on all that transpired from October 9, 2020 to October 6, 2021, the only thing I can say is that I had no control over any of it at all. From Denton Presbyterian to Forth Worth Harris to Denton Select to Paul and Jean’s care, to Pecan Creek, to Day Neuro at Medical City, and finally to Good Samaritan where I now live, God providentially guided me to the facilities and the people that best worked for me. Praise His Name.
John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D./March 14th, 2022