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Although stroke is a common occurrence among older adults, the signs of a stroke are not as well known as those pertaining to a heart attack or other sudden illness.
James Hershell Carter had his second stroke while a resident at Sunrise Manor Nursing Home.
Caregivers and nurses were transferring him from one room to another when it became apparent something was wrong: James could not respond to their questions.
“They knew that something was wrong but they didn’t know what,” said his wife, Mary “Nancy” Carter.
A stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery or a blood vessel breaks, interrupting blood flow to an area of the brain. When either of these things happen, brain cells begin to die and brain damage occurs, according to the National Stroke Association.
A stroke can affect speech, movement and memory – depending where the stroke occurs in the brain and how much the brain is damaged.
James worked for Gates Rubber Company for 32 years. He retired in 1999 after suffering his first stroke on the left side of his brain. He recovered from the stroke and continued on, moving into Sunrise in June 2012.
Nancy worked for Sunrise Manor for 17 years before retiring in December 2012 – when James had his second stroke. She wanted to spend more time with him.
James’ second stroke occurred on his right side. His recovery process has been longer as the damage done was more significant.
After his second stroke James was unable to carry out basic tasks and commands.
“He couldn’t dress or do hardly anything by himself; he couldn’t walk or do anything with his arm, hand or leg on his left side. He was in a wheelchair for awhile – now he uses a cane and only has to have help every once in a while,” Nancy said.
James has gone through a variety of physical therapy exercises to help increase his mobility and to help realign him in daily activities. Laura Sefton, P.T.A.T.C. (Physical Therapy Athletic Trainer, Certified) of Sunrise Manor, has worked often with James during his stay.
Sefton said they started working with James on carrying out simple commands, such as trying to wiggle his fingers.
“He had a hard time following commands, because he did not have that connecting process due to the extreme damage caused by the stroke. We worked with him on really basic things like bed mobility, going from standing to sitting, dressing sequence, repetition activities, working in a closed environment (away from distractions).”
The severity of James’ stroke is what makes his story so remarkable, Sefton said. She credits his improvement on self-motivation.
“He had zero mobility on his left side. Once he started to get better at following basic commands, we started working with him on more intensive skills. We began working with him on strengthening his muscles, and progressing to standing as he was confined to a wheelchair for several months.”
Nancy is pleased with his progress.
“They’ve worked wonders with him here; we couldn’t ask for a better place,” she said.
After becoming strong enough to get out of his wheelchair, James advanced to working on fall prevention, moving between two points by going around obstacles and leg strengthening.
Now in his final stages of therapy, James has now been provided with reintegration opportunities, including visits to a nearby Pizza Hut in Hodgenville – next door to the nursing home.
“I do leg therapy and arm strengthening exercises every day. I almost have full ability to move my hand now because I do hand exercises,” said James, “I have a brace on my leg to help me walk better. They take me out to walk, and have had me walk to Pizza Hut and around here.”
Sefton said therapy varies based on the “cognitive status of the patient, and the severity of the stroke that they encounter.”
“There will be similarities in treatment plans for stroke patients, however it is dependent upon the patient – how they react to their treatments, what works for them and what does not.”
James is anxious to get rid of his brace and has overcome his obstacles in a record amount of time.
“If you don’t try to do it, you don’t get anything done,” James said. “If you don’t work you won’t get anything done.”