Heather and her family after stroke recovery

Patient Story

New Mom Recovers from Stroke After Birth of First Baby

Posted By Meg Washburn

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Heather and Adam were overjoyed to bring their son home. But the day that had been their happiest suddenly turned into a nightmare when Heather became unresponsive. While they were able to get her to a stroke center quickly and have the clot removed, the first 72 hours were terrifying for her family. Heather could not move her right arm or leg or speak a word.

Fortunately, Heather began showing signs of improvement. Soon she started moving; but she suffered from aphasia, a loss in language ability. She could not grasp or say familiar words, like her husband’s name.

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After initial recovery from a stroke, the patient needs to receive comprehensive rehabilitation to regain functional independence. Adam did not know where to turn. He was accustomed to making major decisions with his wife; but now he needed to make an important one for her. A friend from church recommended the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

“I really wanted Heather to be pushed hard and to be with other people actively trying to get their lives back,” Adam says. While the RIC flagship location downtown was not the closest to the Kroupas’ home in Lisle, Adam thought it was the best bet to get Heather back to the mom she wanted to be for Joshua.

At RIC, Heather underwent intensive, comprehensive physical, speech and occupational therapy. She arrived in a wheelchair, unable to speak. Not only did Heather leave two weeks later able to walk on her own, but the therapists helped her prepare for being a new mother by enabling breastfeeding and training her to walk up and down stairs with a 10-lb sack.

“We have found that by doing so, we are better able to regain the ability to walk father and faster by the time the patient returns home,” says Dr. Richard Harvey, medical director of stroke rehabilitation at RIC. Think about how much more you can accomplish if you can walk quickly and easily.

“Not being able to talk was the most difficult thing for me,” Heather says. “I wanted to communicate with my husband and read to my baby.” Heather continued her therapy at RIC DayRehab in Northbrook.

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Today, it is virtually undetectable that Heather had a stroke. While she does pause to remember words or occasionally loses her train of thought, who doesn’t? She’s able to live a normal life with her family, which now includes a daughter, Allison, 2 years old. Heather is in school to become a teacher and has twice completed the SkyRise climb up the Willis Tower to benefit RIC.

“If you do have a stroke, RIC is the best place for a younger person to get a full recovery,” Harvey says.

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