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Strokes and heart attacks

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Determination, perseverance critical in rehabilitation


After a stroke or heart trauma such as a heart attack, life as the patient knew it is somewhat different. With the proper rehabilitation services, however, they will be able to be healthy and productive in everyday activities.

To understand the purpose of stroke rehabilitation is to understand the nature of the mental interruption also known as a CVA or a cerebral vascular accident. A stroke is a bleed in the brain that affects a certain part of the brain, therefore impacting function typically in one side of the body.

The severity of the stroke determines what sort of action needs to be taken, but whether it’s drugs or physical therapy, the proper rehabilitation services can make life more manageable.

“Some never fully recover to 100 percent, but with rehab and technology, it helps,” said Scott E. Fogo, director, Adult Medical Services, Easter Seals Crossroads.

Typically, stroke rehab services include speech therapy, helping patients improve verbal communication, comprehension, cognition, reading, and any type of receptive and expressive communication.

Occupational therapy helps stroke sufferers deal with fine motor tasks such as working with your hands, daily living such as dressing, self care and feeding – anything to become more independent following the injury.

Physical therapy also focuses on gross motor types of activities such as balance, walking and muscle coordination.

In addition to the three types of services available, Easter Seals also provides specialty programs to further assist patients if a need isn’t met with their traditional services.

“We have assistive technology devices to make life easier, like a single handed keyboard for those who’ve lost use of one hand. There are lots of ways to come by re-gaining independence,” explained Fogo.

Rehab is most thought of involving drugs and alcohol following strokes, but cardiac rehab is not only critical to the patients life, but is more simple than most think.

Cardiac rehabilitation has traditionally been prescribed for patients who have had some acute event like bypass surgery, heart attack, or coronary disease that causes irregular pain.

Cardiac rehabilitation is a way to start at a low level and gradually re-engage and re-teach the heart to take on an increased workload and become more efficient, heal better and get back to maximum function.

“Some people who have heart conditions that can’t be fixed like angioplasty are stuck with what they’ve got. They’re limited by their chest pain and that’s a limitation we can make better with cardiac rehab,” explained Cindy Adams, director of healthy hearts center at the Indiana Heart Hospital.

Because cardiac rehab focuses on secondary prevention (basically by the time they come to the Heart Hospital, they’ve already experienced an abnormality) by managing the risk factors for heart conditions, such as putting patients on the correct medication, creating a heart healthy diet, weight management, keeping a watchful eye on cholesterol, diabetes, and blood pressure, patients can train their heart to become stronger.

The Heart Hospital also provides patients with a staff psychologist to help deal with their lifestyle change because many don’t truly understand the severity of their situation.

“One of the biggest misconceptions people have whether they’ve had a heart attack or bypass surgery, they think they’re fixed. It’s the attitude of ‘wow, this was a close call, I’m OK now,’” said Adams. “But what people really need to understand is they’re diagnosed with something they’re going to be dealing with for the rest of their lives.”

With a stroke or cardiac arrest life is not over, but life has changed. Dealing with these conditions, patients must realize that it is a continuous battle, but with the right rehab and attitude miraculous outcomes can happen.

“The key factor is after all the medical stuff is put aside, it’s about the consumer motivation, family and social support. We see the difference between those who can make it over some of those very difficult hurdles and those who are willing to fight just a little bit harder. Determination and perseverance is critical,” said Fogo.

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