More than a brain attack

More than a brain attack 

At Parkwood Institute, rehabilitation is recognized as vital in stroke recovery.  

Many patients who are recovering from a stroke say leaving the hospital feels like being dropped off a cliff into a void—forgotten and having to fend for themselves. 

Dr. Robert Teasell and a team of stroke clinicians and researchers want to change that. They are working toward easing the fallout from stroke with more resources for treating the ongoing clinical consequences, such as paralysis, speech and vision problems.  

Dr. Teasell, Shannon, Darlene, Angel and John

Stroke survivors Angel Como and John Topham, right, visiting Dr. Teasell, occupational therapist Shannon Honsberger,and  physiotherapist Darlene Vandesompele at Parkwood Institute’s outpatient rehabilitation area. 

Similar to a heart attack, a stroke is often referred to as a “brain attack” to emphasize the importance of prompt treatment. “While stroke care has been revolutionized by giving clot-busting drugs within the first few hours, there needs to be greater recognition of the impact and value of rehabilitation in stroke care,” says Dr. Teasell,” a scientist with Lawson Health Research Institute and medical director of the stroke rehabilitation unit at St. Joseph’s Parkwood Institute. 

John Topham knows the importance of rehabilitation only too well.  In 2010, following surgery, he had a large stroke that actually required a section of his skull to be removed to reduce the brain swelling.  After the stroke he needed to relearn how to use his right arm, walk, talk and take care of himself again.  Once discharged following two months of inpatient rehabilitation at Parkwood Institute, he continued pursuing all outpatient rehabilitation resources available to him.

To support the need for ongoing stroke rehabilitation, and to help integrate research evidence into clinical practice and policies Dr. Teasell and his research team created the world’s most comprehensive review of more than 4,000 stroke rehabilitation studies, “There is now starting to be a greater emphasis on rehabilitation and community reintegration to ensure stroke patients become not just independent but also maximize their quality of their lives,” he explains. 

Community rehabilitation has been essential to Angel Como’s recovery.  Living on a farm, she was just 45 years old when she had a stroke in 2013. When discharged after her inpatient rehabilitation, lingering impacts of the stroke included weakness in her left arm and challenges with her vision.   

“I was stuck on the farm and I couldn’t travel to get further rehabilitation because the stroke led to my driver’s license being suspended” she says.  With Parkwood Institute being one of the few centres in Canada that provides inpatient, outpatient and outreach stroke rehabilitation services, the Community Stroke Rehabilitation Team travelled to Como’s home to speed her recovery. 

“Focusing on promoting recovery through stroke rehabilitation interventions will help us to not just manage a patient’s ‘brain attack’ but also deal with the ongoing rehabilitation of the ‘injured brain’,” says Dr. Teasell.

For both Topham and Como the success of ongoing stroke rehabilitation, combined with their motivation, perseverance and support of their families and community care providers, has helped get them back to the business of living.

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