Walking on her own

image of therapist working with patient

Occupational therapist Beth Terrell was part of a team of physical, occupational, and speech therapists who got Levine back on her feet after a hemorrhagic stroke.

Emory Rehabilitation Hospital

It was another low-key Friday evening, with a favorite TV show about to start, when Louise Levine’s husband heard a garbled yell. He found his wife on the kitchen floor, moaning, one hand to her head. When he tried to help her up, she stumbled, and her left arm hung uselessly. At Emory University Hospital, Levine was diagnosed with intracranial hemorrhage, the least common but most dangerous type of stroke. She was barely 25, but hypertension and lupus had increased her risk.

The neurosurgical team repaired the torn artery, relieving pressure on the brain. After a week of acute care, it was Emory Rehabilitation Hospital’s turn. Over the next three weeks, a team of physical, occupational, and speech therapists worked with Levine seven days a week, under the direction of physiatrist Samuel Milton.

Occupational therapist Beth Terrell did the initial evaluation, determining what assistance Louise needed to bathe, get dressed, go to the bathroom. Levine knew her left leg was weak, but she seemed completely inattentive to her left arm, as if she didn’t recognize it as part of her body. Terrell had seen this before with stroke patients. She taught Levine to pay attention to the “dead” arm, positioning it to protect her elbow and wrist joints and using a sling to protect her shoulder. With lots of help from the therapy team, Levine slowly regained the ability to walk, talk, and eat. With her right hand, she could brush her teeth and use her cell phone. Her memory and problem solving improved.

Given her devastating diagnosis, her family considers her recovery a great success. Part of the credit goes to the hard work of Louise, her husband, and sisters, who attended the hospital’s family education sessions to learn how to help with therapy and modify the home environment.

But none of her recovery would have been possible without tens of thousands of dollars in care at Emory University Hospital and Emory Rehabilitation Hospital. Since the young couple had neither insurance nor savings, there would be no reimbursement for these services. Except, says Terrell, for that smile on Levine’s face as she left, walking on her own.