Ellen DeFrank, 57, moved from Arkansas to Casper, WY to be closer to her family. Six months later, Ellen suffered a stroke while visiting her brother and sister-in-law. While sitting on their couch, Ellen suddenly couldn’t lift her head. Her speech had become slowed and slurred. Ellen recalls her face did not droop, which often accompanies the slurred speech. But she and her family knew something wasn’t right and called 9-1-1.
Ellen was taken by ambulance to Wyoming Medical Center where the Primary Stroke Team delivers the best and fastest stroke treatment possible. Imaging of Ellen’s brain showed multiple strokes affecting her left side. In fact, many “old” and “new” strokes were found. This could explain Ellen’s nagging headaches and dizziness over the last few years.
After three days at Wyoming Medical Center, Ellen transferred to Elkhorn Valley Rehabilitation Hospital. This began her 16-day journey in acute inpatient rehab. Ellen’s rehab focused on her global left-sided weakness and word-finding difficulty.
Like many stroke survivors, Ellen experienced post-stroke depression. Ellen was reluctant to leave her room and enter the world of rehab. “Afraid that no one would understand her speech,” Ellen struggled with the desire to go home and with her family’s desire for her stay and recover. In Ellen’s own mind, she “didn’t make sense and sounded different.” In fact, she would often feel her mouth to make sure it was moving. On Ellen’s 3rd day at EVRH, she went to the cafeteria, where another patient assured her she was understood. Coupled with the reassurance of her EVRH clinical team, this paved the way for Ellen’s emotional and physical recovery.
During her stay at Elkhorn Valley, Ellen received physical, occupational and speech therapy. Always humble throughout her stay, Ellen credits speech therapy “for giving her a voice,” and physical therapy for “teaching her to walk.” Although Ellen is a petite 4’11”, she “felt like 6’0 when walking around Elkhorn Valley.” She would simply say “morning” to everyone she would encounter, as “good” was hard to say. Her philosophy is that a smile and a “morning” makes a potential bad day good.
Ellen is very proud to have achieved all her therapy goals while at Elkhorn Valley. During her stay, Ellen’s philosophy was (and still is), “always follow through and don’t stop!”
Ellen also enjoyed an early birthday celebration during her stay. She was thrilled to escort her family to EVRH’s South Day Room for this special occasion. She reports “no limping, walking normal and straight,” – definitely reason to celebrate.
While she still wants to “talk better without pause and delay,” Ellen is doing exceptionally well upon discharge and attends EVRH outpatient therapy.
Ellen is happy to be home with her family – enjoying their conversations, watching movies and walks in the neighborhood. She would also like to remind all that “not every stroke is the same.” Please do as Ellen and her family did and call 9-1-1 at the first signs of a stroke.