Motivation, encouragement, fight. In addition to state-of-the art rehabilitative equipment, these are the inspirational tools Andra Fawcett’s stroke team used to help her along the painful journey to recovery.
A mini-stroke at age 49 followed by a massive stroke two years later, in December 2015, left the busy, otherwise healthy, working mother and avid mountain biker in the stroke unit at the Kingston General Hospital (KGH) site of Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) for two weeks, facing the fight of her life.
Unable to walk as a result of the debilitating impact of the stroke, Andra was eventually transferred to Providence Care for six weeks of intensive rehabilitation. “I would watch patients that were 80 and 90 years old walking down the halls at night and I was in a wheelchair. It was very traumatic.”
Quickly labeled an “escape artist” by her nurses, Andra’s own determination to walk again had her setting off alarm bells as she struggled to “try new things.” Within 24 hours of arriving at Providence Care she began to feel the difference of being in the hands of a skilled, inter-professional rehabilitation team. That’s when “Everything changed,” she says, “I was more motivated.”
Andra spent several hours each day “pushing the limits” working with physiotherapists on specialized equipment. One particular foot drop system, purchased with a donor-powered grant from the University Hospitals Kingston Foundation in 2016, helps people with certain neurological conditions regain their mobility by delivering programmed, low-level electrical stimulation to activate nerves and muscles that lift the foot and help them walk with greater speed, stability and confidence. Over time, Andra was finally able to walk out of the hospital on her own.
Mary Jo Demers, who worked closely with Andra, credits the combined efforts of Providence Care’s inter-professional stroke team, which brings together physiotherapy, speech therapy, nursing, social work, and psychiatry to address “the whole person” in order to speed patient recovery.
Andra is much younger than the average stroke patient which makes her case unique. She has been a recent participant in a study using the KINARM, a cutting-edge robotic technology used in all three Kingston academic research hospitals, to assess the neurological impact of a wide range of injuries and diseases. Data from the KINARM study will be used to inform researchers and clinicians as they continue to advance their understanding about the effects of brain injuries such as stroke.
Two and a half years later Andra says “recovery never ends.” She still struggles emotionally with feelings of anger and frustration. Physically, there are days when simply walking to her desk at work is “exhausting.” But she presses on in spite of the ups and downs of recovery: setting realistic goals (she wants to ride her bike this summer) and never taking the simple activities of daily life for granted. “Today, I am able to wear flip flops!” she says with a self-motivational cheer.
Grateful for the care she received, Andra does not hesitate to credit Kingston’s hospitals, and their staff, for their efforts. “KGH saved my life” she says, “and Providence Care helped me live my life.”