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Blessed to be a Blessing

Posted on May 4, 2022

Stroke Survivor Receives Excellent Care at Methodist, Continues Recovery at Therapy Center

Karen Baker of Oak Ridge is an active 79-year-old who exercises regularly and takes care of everyone around her.

One busy day this past January, she stood up from her chair and suddenly felt “off.” Her left side had gone numb and she quickly realized she was having a stroke. Thanks to life-saving action at Methodist Medical Center and skilled physical therapists aiding in her healing, Baker is expected to make a full recovery.

Emergency Care

“It felt like my arm and leg had gone to sleep,” recalls Baker. “I told my husband to take me to the ER because we live just five minutes away. Looking back, I know that we should have gone by ambulance, but we didn’t know how serious it was.”

Upon arriving at Methodist’s emergency department, Baker says, “They wheeled me in within minutes and I got some tests done. They talked to me about the clot buster, tPA. My whole left side was totally listless. I ended up getting the tPA and within less than an hour, the feeling started to come back to my arm, leg and face, and I regained control of my fingers.”

Karen Baker smiling at PT
Karen Baker recommends that everyone know the signs and symptoms of a stroke – just in case.

Baker was admitted to the critical care unit and closely monitored for several days. She says her care team took excellent care of her and explained everything that was happening. “I had trouble walking so I stayed until they saw I could regain balance.”

Inpatient Therapy

The clinical specialists evaluate a patient’s ability to function after a stroke. Baker was functioning at a high level but had room to improve her balance. Her team of therapists within the hospital recommended she use a walker for assistance and continue with outpatient physical therapy.

Outpatient Therapy

After an injury, surgery or other health event, patients can receive prescribed exercise and hands-on care in an outpatient setting at Methodist Therapy Center. Kelsey Crabdree, PT, DPT, and Michelle Jordan, PTA, began working with Baker about 10 days following her stroke.

Several times per week, Baker comes to the therapy center where she performs balance exercises while simultaneously doing arm movements to promote core stabilization. She practices walking while carrying a glass of water, walking around cones and walking while performing head movements to improve dynamic gait. Baker says her therapists have been fantastic.

Karen Baker at PT
Karen Baker works on stability and balance exercises in physical therapy.

“They think of things I would never have thought of, and have me using muscles I didn’t know were weak. They zero in on things I wasn’t aware I was deficient in, like multitasking. It’s amazing, and has been so helpful.” Crabdree says, “Mrs. Baker has been a highly motivated patient. The effort she brings to each treatment session is unmatched, and that’s one of the main reasons she has progressed so well in such a short period of time. It has been an absolute pleasure teaching her ways to improve her strength, balance and confidence with everyday activities.

“Her confidence with household and community walking has also improved greatly since starting therapy. She has progressed from using a rolling walker to a cane and now is walking independently without an assistive device.”

Crabdree adds, “A lot of her success is attributed to seeking physical therapy services within the first month of having her stroke. Directly after a CVA [cerebrovascular accident] or any neurological condition, such as a TBI [traumatic brain injury], the body has a high rate of neuroplasticity.

“Neuroplasticity is the body’s ability to build new connections in the brain that help improve balance, motor coordination, motor planning and performance of tasks,” Crabdree explains. “A patient will see significant changes in a shorter period of time if we treat them in a timely manner following any injury associated with the brain.”

“I Am Blessed”

Kelsey Crabdree, PT
A strong advocate for stroke education, Karen Baker invited her physical therapist, Kelsey Crabdree, to speak at her weekly exercise class. Crabdree not only gave a short presentation but stayed to participate in the class. “Staying active like Karen and this group can help recovery from a stroke, other illness or injury be that much more successful,” said Crabdree.

Baker, a devout believer, says, “I am a positive person and an optimist. I am blessed with the presence of the Holy Spirit, and He is my comforter. I have been blessed with my wonderful family and my friends, who have brought food and covered us with kindness. I have been blessed by the team at Methodist who took such good care of me. Every person I interacted with, every nurse, doctor, CNA, the technicians, the people who cleaned the rooms, everyone was just excellent. I’m blessed to be here, and they all contributed to my recovery!”

Baker’s message to everyone is, “Learn the symptoms of a stroke. Post a list in your home. I want all my friends to know the signs – vision blurred, numbness, difficulty raising your arm. Stop what you’re doing and call 911. Do not transport yourself. I should have come [to Methodist] by ambulance, because that’s a few more minutes they could have been working on me.”

She adds, “They told me later that everything I had been doing for my health, like two swim classes and two core/balance classes each week, saved my life. I relish getting better in therapy because I have got places to go, people to see and things to do.”

Know the Signs of A Stroke: BE FAST

 BALANCE: Sudden loss of balance.

EYES: Sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes.

FACE: Does the face look uneven?

ARMS: Does one arm drift down? Ask them to raise both arms.

SPEECH: Does their speech sound strange? Ask them to repeat a phrase.

TIME: Time is brain. Every second brain cells die during a stroke.