Success Stories

Leroy Rady

Leroy Rady admitted to NCRH to recover from a spinal cord injury he suffered in a fall.

Back in 2013, there was a Big Thompson River flood in Drake, CO. That is where Leroy Rady, 87, and his spouse, Marge, have lived for the past 20 years. Since the flood, Leroy has been rebuilding his home and fixing up the yard. He and Marge are very active and enjoy spending time with their three daughters and two grandchildren. He and Marge owned a telephone business and retired in 1997.

One June day, Leroy fell in his kitchen and hit his face, injuring his spine in the process. His diagnosis was an incomplete central cord syndrome secondary to a spinal cord injury at C6 with severe spinal stenosis. Unable to feel his arms and experiencing extreme pain, Leroy underwent surgical intervention.

Inpatient rehabilitation would be important for Leroy’s recovery. He chose Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital due to his daughter living close to the facility.

Leroy couldn’t be happier with the decision. He had praise for all the staff and the impact they had on his recovery. “The therapists influenced my recovery the most and made me work really hard,” he reflected. “I wanted to get home and they wanted to get me home!”

“The nurses were great,” he continued. “The CEO and director of nursing greeted me when I arrived and were very welcoming. I loved how the CEO would help in the kitchen and deliver popcorn every Friday to patients and staff. At other facilities, you don’t see this.”

Having made great progress, Leroy was ready to discharge home. That day would be an emotional one for Leroy. “The best part of my experience at NCRH was the standing ovation at the end of my stay,” he said with tears in his eyes. “Everyone I worked with was wishing me well on my journey ahead. I am so blessed to be doing as great as I am and to have worked with such a wonderful staff.”

Leroy also credits his family for their support, especially Marge.

Back home, Leroy is excited to get back to working on the house and the yard. He still has to wear a neck brace for a few more weeks but he is walking around the house and doing great!

 

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Michael Figal

Tammie Figal chose NCRH for Michael’s post-stroke recovery after it was highly recommended by friends.

Michael was so excited about his big 60th birthday party at his house. But ten minutes before the party he collapsed on the floor. Brought to the acute care hospital, Michael was diagnosed with acute basilar thrombosis. The doctors administered tPA and Michael had a thrombectomy performed.

Prior to his hospitalization, Michael lived an active life. He worked at Sunset Memorial Gardens (a funeral home) the past three years as a family service advisor. He also was the board president of the Evans Chamber for the past two years. Michael loves social events, fantasy football, and taking nature walks along the Poudre River Trail. From Greeley, CO, Michael has been married to his wife, Tammie, for 26 years.

Tammie chose Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital for Michael’s rehabilitation. Not only is NCRH close to their home, but it came highly recommended by their friends.

“My wife influenced my recovery the most,” Michael said. “She really pushed me to recuperate fast. She was also my watchdog to make sure I got the best care.”

Tammie added, “I had to be an advocate for Michael since he couldn’t speak. And I’m so glad I chose NCRH. Thank goodness we get a choice!”

Michael had great things to say about his experience at NCRH, noting specifically the attention and positivity of the staff. “The doctor came in frequently, and the PCTs always checked on me,” he noted. “The cafeteria staff was so positive and friendly. And I loved how the therapists posted my therapy schedule daily. It was a great visual communication tool.”

Upon completing his inpatient stay, Michael discharged home with a renewed freedom. “I came in a wheelchair and walked out of NCRH independently,” he exclaimed. Michael was excited to get back home to his normal life and not hospital life.

Michael’s future goals are to get back to work and to drive again. He has returned to social events and Chamber meetings. One of his greatest accomplishments is to be walking about the Poudre River Trail alone again.

“It feels like freedom,” he stated proudly.

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Rick Ybarra

Determination, positivity and a strong support system helped Rick Ybarra recover from a right leg amputation.

Strength is more than a physical trait according to Rick Ybarra. When faced with the unexpected amputation of his right leg, Rick learned it was a strong mind that allowed him to get back to his life.

Rick was working at a recycling center when a 27,000 pound container dropped on his legs. He was able to get his left leg free, but not his right. After emergency services picked him up, the next thing he remembers is waking up in the hospital after surgery to save his limb. Unfortunately, the physicians soon realized that it was not possible and Rick would need an amputation.

Rick expected an amputation below his knee, but that was not possible. To save Rick’s life, the physicians needed to amputate much higher than expected. When Rick woke up from surgery, he was angry and frustrated. Rick has never cried much in his life, but this time, Rick cried.

Rick spent over a week in the hospital before he chose to go to Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital for intense therapy. Rick wanted to get his life back.

One of the first things Rick was determined to do was go to the bathroom without assistance. Rick recalled the support of Isaiah, one of his physical therapists. “He believed in me,” Rick said. “He knew I could do it.” And he did within three days. That was Rick’s first step in getting his life back.

“I had to learn how to do everything over again,” Rick said. Rick’s wife, Candy, added: “we taking walking for granted.”

The combination of Rick’s strong mind and the expertise of his therapy and nursing teams would produce great results. After several weeks in the hospital, Rick returned home with his wife. Rick continued with outpatient rehabilitation at Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital. While his first prosthetic was a “dinosaur” according to Rick, “it felt so good to stand up again.” Even after a year, the therapy team continues to work with Rick to assist him in getting his independence back.

Rick attributes his success to being positive and not secluding himself. “Anyone going through this is bound to have ups and downs,” he said. “It is a different path for life, but one that can be positive if you listen to your therapists and have a strong mind. Don’t quit!”

The support of Rick’s family has been key to his success. They each showed their support by getting a tattoo of a bear claw. The bear claw signifies the strength that Rick had to overcome his injury.

Rick now has a new prosthetic with a custom Raiders logo on it to replace the tattoo from his amputated limb. Rick is able to drive again and has returned to activities he used to do alone. His strong mind got him where he is now, saying, “I can do it!”

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Jim Peterson

Jim Peterson is a retired ENT physician who lives in Greeley, Colorado. Jim, 80, loves to read, walk, cook (especially bread), listen to music, and play the banjo. Jim also finds joy in being with his family, including his wife of 57 years, Sylvia, his children, and five grandchildren.

After undergoing back surgery (an elective L4-5 fusion), Jim entered a skilled nursing facility for rehabilitation. While there, he suffered a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), or stroke. This led to weakness on his right side, known as right hemiparesis.

Both his friends and the staff at the acute care hospital told Jim that Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital has the best stroke program. Trusting their recommendation, Jim admitted to NCRH to his recovery.

“Day-to-day this has been a rollercoaster ride,” Jim said of his recent medical issues, “but it is so important to turn a negative experience into a positive one. It takes gradual baby steps that you notice over time to see improvements.”

Jim also recognizes that Sylvia’s support and setting goals were critical in staying focused. “My recovery was most influenced by my wife and my desire to continue my hobbies,” he noted.

Jim Peterson with his wife, Sylvia. Sylvia’s influence was key to his recovery from a stroke.

Sylvia explains further, “his motivation for recovery is his philosophy in life. That means his hard work ethic, hardly complaining, and knowing as a physician that there are consequences if you stop trying.”

“At Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital, I felt I was working with a team and not for them,” Jim said, reflecting on his stay. “The staff was wonderful. They developed rapport with me and this was helpful in many ways.”

“Success is all about achieving modest goals,” Jim stated. “Those goals for me are to get back to playing the banjo again, becoming more ambulatory, standing for longer periods of time to cook, and of course making bread again!”

“Jim never stops working hard at improving,” Sylvia said, adding, “he even does exercise in bed!”

 

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Gary Lauer

“This will be my new normal, but sure couldn’t have done it without all my family and friends.”

Gary Lauer adored retired life. He spent lots of time with his spouse and grandson, went on lots of family vacations. Gary especially loved being outdoors. Gardening, mowing, hunting and fishing were all pleasurable activities for Gary.

Forty years ago, Gary had thyroid cancer. He didn’t think twice about it coming back. That was until he started having extreme back pain and weakness in his lower extremities.

Gary’s pain and weakness was the result of a non-traumatic spinal cord injury due to thyroid cancer. The spinal cord injury resulted in paraplegia, or paralysis of the legs and lower body.

After a prolonged hospitalization, Gary transferred to Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital. Gary chose NCRH because his good friend was the Director of Therapy and told him all about how wonderful the facility was for treating neurological conditions.

“Meeting the clinical liaison, Brooke, helped with the decision,” Gary added. “She was so pleasant, a great advocate, and saw me a lot prior to coming to rehab.”

Reflecting on his stay, Gary praised the many members of the team he encountered. “The staff were the motivators for my recovery. They were so encouraging and positive,” Gary stated. “They gave me a ray of sunshine and hope for my future! Dr. Walker was so personable and the therapy department and nurses were just so good. The staff was able to motivate me to get through life and prepare for my journey ahead”.

Gary is so excited to get home and back to his routine.

“This will be my new normal, but sure couldn’t have done it without all my family and friends.”

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Blake Whitsell

Blake Whitsell’s 9th concussion forced him to retire from football, and severely impacted his memory.

A talkative, social and funny guy, Blake Whitsell played defensive tackle for South Dakota State University. Then, the 20-year-old suffered a concussion during football camp. After that, Blake couldn’t even carry on a meaningful conversation.

The concussion was the third one Blake suffered during camp — and the 9th in his lifetime. The team doctor recommend he retire from football.

A history and political science major, Blake could no longer remember anything he studied. “I couldn’t read one line and remember it,” he said. Blake moved home and returned to college the following semester. But his troubles continued.

Blake and his parents continued to look for help. Eventually, a neurologist recommended Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital, where he began receiving speech therapy on an outpatient basis.

“I had no idea what I was getting into,” Blake recalled. “I understood what physical and occupational therapy was, but not speech therapy. I just had to trust the process.”

Blake now realizes the importance of understanding concussions. “Looking back, I wish I would have known more about concussions,” he said. “Maybe I would have stopped football earlier. But, I have to say, my football training is what got me through my therapy. It was tough.”

Blake worked for three months with speech therapist, Callie Halstead. She provided him with meta-cognitive strategy training, which involves “thinking about your thinking” in context of attention, memory, and reasoning exercises.

“I also provided Blake with an extensive home exercise program to help him generalize what we did in our sessions so he could apply it to his daily life,” Callie noted. “He was a fantastic rehabilitation candidate. He did everything I asked him to do, and he quickly saw positive results.”

Six-to-eight weeks into therapy, friends started to notice Blake’s focus was much better. He was able to once again build relationships and connections with others. As he progressed, Blake began beating people with “normal” brain scores. He went from a self-proclaimed “C” student to an “A” student, even getting a 97% on his final spring paper.

“I know I wouldn’t have gotten better without therapy,” Blake said. “Therapy has given me my life back. It’s helped me in every aspect of my life. While at the hospital, I was treated like a friend, not like I was a patient. I was sad to see therapy end. I call Callie my brain teacher – she gave me a super brain! She’s my hero.”

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Chester “Mac” Allsup

Mac with one of his outpatient physical therapists, Randy Willman, MPT

51-year-old Chester “Mac” Allsup of Greeley was a “jack of all trades.” He spent his time hunting, fishing, bike riding, walking his dogs, and keeping his yard in pristine condition. But most of all, Allsup was a master of cooking and BBQ.

Everything changed when Mac was involved in a car accident over the summer. The accident left him with multiple traumatic injuries, including a left tib-fib fracture, left rib fractures 3-4, left ischial ramus fracture, and left AC shoulder separation. After initial treatment at a local hospital, Mac transferred to Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital for follow up care.

Inpatient rehabilitation offered Mac an opportunity to return to his favorite hobbies.

“Initially, after my accident, I felt defeated,” Mac says. “I prided myself in my ability to do numerous outdoor activities, and now I was limited. But as soon as I came to Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital, my spirits lifted. The staff was incredibly welcoming, with nothing but positive attitudes from the start.”

“Our goal is to help patients return home quickly and with the highest level of independence possible,” says Dr. Revelyn Arrogante, Medical Director at NCRH. “We do this through services provided by our highly trained healthcare providers, advanced rehabilitation technologies, and individualized therapy plans. We want to get patients back to doing what they love at their highest abilities.”

After about two weeks of treatment, Mac returned home. He still uses a wheelchair, but is able to perform everyday tasks independently. Mac continues to receive physical and occupational therapy through the NCRH’s outpatient services. He has returned to cooking, too. Mac hopes to help at NCRH’s next employee appreciation BBQ to show the staff how much he values what they did for him.

“The staff cares about you as a person, not just as another patient,” Mac says. “They took the time to get to know me – what I like, what I dislike, my favorite hobbies. You can see the staff’s passion for caregiving. At the end of my stay, they gave me a standing ovation. Seeing all of the people who helped to get me back home cheering me on was truly remarkable.”

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Local Hospitals Help Return Gillette Man Home

When Christopher Lauck of Gillette, Wyo., mixed CLR (Calcium, Lime, Rust remover) with bleach this past summer, the result was life-threatening. The 32-year-old coal mine equipment operator went into respiratory failure after breathing in the fumes.

Respiratory failure occurs when there isn’t enough oxygen passing from the lungs into the body’s bloodstream, which creates the potential to critically harm the body’s organs like the heart and brain. In Lauck’s case, he was rushed to a local hospital and put on a mechanical ventilator to help him breathe. After about a month at the hospital, he was transferred to Northern Colorado Long Term Acute Hospital for continued care. He was still on a ventilator.

“While the ventilator plays a critical, life-saving role, it was important to get Christopher removed from it as quickly and safely as possible to avoid complications,” says Dr. Gary Pearson, Medical Director of Northern Colorado Long Term Acute Hospital. “He had received prolonged mechanical ventilation, which requires specialized medical assistance in being weaned off of it.”

At the hospital, an interdisciplinary respiratory failure team created a personalized plan of care with Lauck and his family members that was tailored to his complex, medical needs. The team used proven clinical practices, evidence-based research, and the latest technology to help remove Lauck from the ventilator within two weeks.

“The physicians and medical team were very thorough and provided excellent care,” Lauck says. “I felt good about the treatments and felt at home.”

Soon after Lauck was removed from the ventilator, he was transferred to Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital. He began participating in physical, occupational, and speech therapy. He relearned how to perform daily activities such as walking, eating, dressing – and his favorite, competitive shooting.

“My therapists found out I enjoyed competitive shooting, so during therapy, I began using a laser to shoot at targets,” Lauck says. “It was a really positive experience and helped me to see that I was going to be able to return back to doing the things I enjoyed.”

Lauck returned home at the beginning of September. He has since returned back to work, competitive shooting, and spending time with his friends.

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Outdoor Enthusiast Returns
to the Great Outdoors

Local Hospitals Return Outdoor Enthusiast to the Outdoors

From mountain biking to hiking to camping, 51-year-old Marty Wood of Lusk, Wyo., spent much of his free time enjoying the outdoors. When he wasn’t racing down the sides of mountains on his bike, he took on another thrilling and challenging task, being a high school principal.

This past April, however, Wood began experiencing heart attack-like symptoms. After being taken to a local hospital for initial healthcare treatment, Wood found out that he had a dissecting aortic aneurysm. He was transferred to Northern Colorado Long Term Acute Hospital in May where he continued to receive healthcare treatment.

“A dissecting aortic aneurysm is a serious and uncommon condition in which the large blood vessel branching off the heart tears,” explains Dr. Gary Pearson, Medical Director at Northern Colorado Long Term Acute Hospital. “This causes blood to surge through the tear, causing the layers of the vessel to dissect or separate.”

Wood was unable to speak when he first arrived due to his condition, so the nurses devised a code system for him so that he could communicate with the staff. “They gave me a voice I didn’t have,” Wood says. “Therapy taught me how to eat and drink again, but the compassion from the staff gave me hope.”

Wood is one of numerous patients who have received treatment at Northern Colorado Long Term Acute Hospital. “Patients are our passion,” Pearson says. “We understand that each patient’s situation is unique, so we work alongside each patient and family to devise a specialized healthcare treatment plan that will work best for them.”

After a few weeks of therapy at the long-term acute care hospital, Wood was transferred to Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital for rehabilitation. “I was completely dependent when I arrived back in May. When I came to the rehabilitation hospital, I began to gain my independence back,” he says. “The staff gave me dignity and respect. They all believed in me and my recovery.”

When Wood arrived at Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital, he suffered from paralysis, low levels of oxygen in his blood, and kidney failure, all caused by the dissecting aortic aneurysm. He received physical and occupational therapy at the hospital to help regain strength and use of his muscles so he could re-learn how to walk independently and perform daily activities like eating and brushing his teeth.

“The staff got to know me for who I was before my condition,” Wood says. “They learned about how much I loved biking and the outdoors, so they incorporated that into my therapy, having me run through the mud and ride a bike. I was fighting every step of the way on the road to recovery and the staff was fighting right alongside me.”

Wood was released from Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital back in July. He now is independent with the use of a front-wheel walker and hopes to be back on the mountains enjoying the outdoors soon.

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Motivated by her kids, single mom recovers

Motivated by her six kids, single mom in Greeley recovers from brain aneurysm, goes to college and goes back to work

Jennifer Flores had headaches before, but this was different. She’d never experienced that kind of pain. When it hit, she began to scream.

Anthony, 10, the eldest of Flores’ six kids, heard the screams. Flores would often playfully scare him and his siblings and chase them around for fun. But Anthony could tell she wasn’t playing. He called 911.

The last thing Flores, 28, of Greeley, remembered was fighting with EMS about who was going to watch her kids as they brought her into the ambulance.

She woke up at Swedish Medical Center in Denver. She’d had five brain aneurysms.

“They told me, If you can’t lift this medicine ball, you won’t be able to take care of your kids.”
— Jennifer Flores, mother of six and survivor of five brain aneurysms

When she woke up, she had no idea she was married or that she had six kids. She’d recognize their faces when they came to visit, but as soon as they left, she couldn’t remember them. Her youngest daughter was a year-and-a-half old then.

A brain aneurysm is a bulge or ballooning in a blood vessel in the brain, according to the Mayo Clinic’s website. It can leak or rupture, which causes a hemorrhagic stroke. Leaks can cause sudden, severe headaches, often followed by a rupture. Ruptures can cause sudden, extremely severe headaches, nausea and vomiting, stiff neck, blurred or double vision, sensitivity to light, seizures, drooping eye lids, loss of consciousness and confusion.

Hers ruptured.

After about two weeks at Swedish Medical Center, Flores transferred to the Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital, 4401 Union St. in Johnstown, where she started her recovery. And even though she couldn’t remember them at first, her kids became her reason to get better.

When she first started, she couldn’t lift more than five pounds. When she got frustrated at the gym, her therapists would remind her why she was working so hard.

“I thought I couldn’t do it,” Flores said. “They told me, ‘If you can’t lift this medicine ball, you won’t be able to take care of your kids.’ “

Therapists had her plan birthday parties. They asked her what meals she’d cook her kids. Flores had to list out the ingredients. They even took her to the store and let her pick out the groceries and cook her famous lasagna.

She missed a couple ingredients that time, but it was a big step.

She got discharged from the rehabilitation hospital after 11 days. Her life continued to change. She had to participate in outpatient physical therapy for about a year. She and her husband got a divorce. She had to return to the workforce after her stroke and after years of being a stay-at-home mom.

Now 30, Flores and her ex-husband remain friends. The kids split their time between the two. She just graduated with an associate’s degree from Aims Community College. She’s mostly back to normal now, though sometimes she has difficulty sleeping or sleeps too much. She hopes to be a nurse someday.

“I want my kids to look back and see their mom did this,” Flores said. “I wasn’t supposed to walk again, but I graduated and I worked full time to take care of them.”

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Jennifer’s Success Story

Woman’s determination triumphs over life’s setbacks

Jennifer Flores credits family, Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital for stroke recovery.

By Jeannie Lancaster – For the Reporter-Herald
– –

When the pain first hit Jennifer Flores, she thought it might be another of the migraines she had suffered from since she was 14. But she quickly realized this was something very different.

“The pain was horrible,” she said. Flores began having difficulty with her speech and losing control of the left side of her body. It was June 2014, and she was in her Greeley home, alone with her six young children.

“I started screaming in pain,” she said. “It freaked my kids out.”

She told her 10-year-old son to call his dad, but his reply was “No, I’m calling 911.” When she insisted, he did call his father, but immediately afterward dialed 911.

“I was awake the whole time,” Flores said. “The paramedics got to the house, and they did a neurological assessment. I couldn’t move my left arm.”

What Flores didn’t know was that she was experiencing a hemorrhagic stroke, caused by a ruptured aneurysm in her brain. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “a hemorrhagic stroke happens when an artery in the brain leaks blood or ruptures (breaks open). The leaked blood puts too much pressure on brain cells, which damages them.”

A more common type of stroke is an ischemic stroke, which is usually the result of a blocked artery, often caused by a blood clot. Ischemic strokes account for “87 percent of all strokes,” noted the Mayo Clinic.

Flores was taken to North Colorado Medical Center, where doctors assessed her condition. A CT was ordered, but before the scan could be taken, she suffered a massive seizure. A scan later revealed that she had suffered a ruptured aneurysm in her brain. Soon afterward, she was transported by medical helicopter to Swedish Medical Center in Denver.

Physicians at Swedish Medical Center placed Flores in a drug-induced coma and later repaired the ruptured aneurysm. She remained in the coma in the critical care unit for two weeks, before being awakened and transferred for another week to the neuro unit.

When it came time for Flores to be moved to a rehabilitation hospital, the decision was an easy one for her family. They had been pleased with the care Flores’ mother had received at Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital, following a stroke, three years earlier.

Although both women’s strokes were hemorrhagic, they were also different. Flores’ stroke was caused by the burst aneurysm, while her mother’s stroke was caused by an injury after a fall.

When she first arrived at Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital, Flores was very weak. She couldn’t walk and struggled with swallowing and speaking. “I couldn’t make sense of things,” she said. “It’s like I woke up on a different planet.”

Short-term memory loss was a significant challenge for her after her stroke. When staff members asked her if she was married, she replied, “No,” although she was. When asked if she had children, she again responded, “No.”

“If they asked the questions, I would say no,” said Flores, “but then they’d show me a picture of my family and ask ‘Who is this?’ and I’d answer, “That’s my kids.”

“This is common with this kind of stroke,” shared Beth Bullard, CEO of Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital.

During her 13 days at Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital, Flores received speech, occupational and physical therapy to aid her in her recovery. “The techniques we use here facilitate brain activity, creating new pathways in the brain,” added Bullard.

“We make it pertinent to a patient’s life and what he/she knows and what they know is familiar, so that helps the brain react well,” said Bullard. “The more repetition we can bring in, the faster we can get those connections to talk to each other again.”

“And that’s exactly what they did,” said Flores. “You have to relearn how to use your body again and how to have your body and your brain work together.”

Bullard noted that Flores’ therapy focused on many of ‘the things that we do every day that we take for granted — to get dressed, to brush your teeth, make a bed, go to the bathroom. These are the things that we do without thinking, but when you have an injury or disability they can become an incredible challenge.”

Though at times she felt like giving up, Flores continued to work hard. “I was determined to get better for my kids. They remained my focus.”

Following her release from Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital, Flores received in-home therapy for a short time. In August 2015, physicians placed a stent in her brain to deal with three other aneurysms, which were discovered while repairing the ruptured aneurysm.

“I’m doing better now than I was before,” said Flores. “I don’t have the headaches and exhaustion that I had before the aneurysm.”

Flores and her husband divorced a year after her stroke. She returned to school and finished her associate degree in May of this year. She hopes to continue her education. Working and caring for her six children is her primary focus right now.

When she reflects on her experience and its possible impact on her children, she shared, “I want them to look and see that mom did it. I was paralyzed. I was divorced. But I fought my way back. I did it!”

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Local Hospital Helps Mother Return to Her Children

Two years ago, 28-year-old Jennifer Flores had one of the most frightening experiences of her life. While home with her five children in June 2015, she experienced sudden, extreme pain in her head. While her son called for an ambulance, she began losing control of her speech and the left side of her body. This story made the news. Watch it here.

Flores was taken to a local hospital where she was quickly flown by life flight to another as she suffered a massive seizure. Her heart stopped. She woke two weeks later to find that she had suffered from a ruptured aneurysm. She eventually was found to have 4 others that had not ruptured yet and underwent various surgeries.

When it came time for Flores’ rehabilitation, her father insisted that she be taken to Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital. Her mother had been treated there previously for a stroke and her aunt for an amputation.

“We had all been to the rehabilitation hospital before and knew how amazing it was,” she says. Although at the time, Flores says she was disoriented. When she arrived at the hospital she was unaware that she had children. She was weak and couldn’t walk, and she struggled with swallowing and speaking.

“The staff was so compassionate and caring,” Flores says. “They felt like family members. I had a whole team fighting for me to get better. You should have seen how they fought for me.”

Flores recalls the turning point in her rehabilitation process. One day she was trying to lift a 5-pound medicine ball and couldn’t do it. She gave up and told the therapist she couldn’t do it, and that she just wanted to go home to her children. To which the therapist replied that if she couldn’t lift the ball, she was going to be unable to lift her baby and may not be able to take care of her children.

That hit home.

“The ‘tough love’ worked,” Flores says. When it came time for dinner later that day, she grabbed her wheelchair and started to walk to the dining room. “I was determined to get better for my kids; they remained my focus. My rehabilitation was tailored to me and my experience. I wasn’t just practicing writing words; I planned birthday parties for each of my children. This tested my memory, organization skills, and writing. This is what I would have been doing at home. It was perfect for me.”

Flores says she had another powerful experience at the hospital as well. A persistent cough disrupted her sleep for days. One of the physicians heard her one night and went into her room. He asked if she had tried hot tea to soothe the cough. Flores said she had not because she was on a diet that required all her drinks to be thickened, and she didn’t think she should. The doctor reassured her she could have the tea.

“He then went to the cafeteria and made me tea with lemon and honey,” Flores says. “Then he sat with me and talked while I drank it. It was as if I were the only patient there. He made me tea the next night as well. It was truly a powerful and compassionate experience.”

After 11 days, Flores walked out of the hospital and headed home to her children.

“I couldn’t have done it without Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital,” she says. “The entire staff was compassionate and dedicated, and everyone knew what they were doing. It really was amazing.”

Flores, who now is a mother to six children, recently graduated with an associate’s degree. She intends to continue with her education and earn a bachelor’s degree in public health and human services. She is completely independent.

“The whole experience has provided me with powerful insight,” she says. “I want to share my story and inspire others. I want to help patients and their family members understand a process like this takes time and patience. Everyone will get frustrated at times, but there is help and support available. Look for it and use it. Focus on what you CAN do and not on what you can’t do.”

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Wyoming Resident Travels More Than 400 Miles for Johnstown’s Rehabilitative Care

Cliff Root and his wife, Marisa, traveled more than 400 miles and five hours from their hometown in Sheridan, Wyo., so Cliff could receive care at Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital in Johnstown, Colo. And, they’ll tell you that every minute and every mile was worth it.

Almost two years ago, Root, who was 65 years old and on the cusp of retiring, suffered a massive stroke. A Vietnam veteran, Root was an active member of his community and integral in leading the economic development and policy of the state. He was an avid golfer and enjoyed participating in outdoor activities like hunting and hiking.

It was on a hiking trail with his wife that he suffered a stroke. “It was so sudden,” Root says. “Initially, I didn’t have the obvious signs of a stroke, so I wasn’t sure what was happening. I had extreme vertigo, nausea and problems with my eye, but I didn’t think it was a stroke.”

After an emergency phone call by his wife, Root was taken to a local hospital in Sheridan, Wyo. where he was diagnosed as having had a stroke. Root was unable to move his arms or legs, and he was unable to speak or communicate. It took him a while to process what had happened to him. His attending physician recommended outpatient therapy, but Root and his wife knew he needed more specialized treatment to recover. They were adamant about going to Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital, where his stepdaughter works. His wife drove him the whole way.

“Choosing the right care is huge,” he says. “I knew I had to come here where they specialize in stroke rehabilitation. I was inspired by the people here who believed I could recover. It gave me a foundation and made me believe in myself.”

Root says it took a lot of support and consideration from his healthcare team and his family to help him recover. “I just had to surrender,” he says. “I couldn’t communicate my thoughts or move my muscles. It took a tremendous amount of energy just to listen. When you can’t communicate, it’s easy to become isolated if those helping you aren’t tolerant and understanding. I could have become part of the background, but I didn’t. “

Root admits that his healing process was challenging, but he kept thoughts of his family in the forefront to motivate him.

“There was such a role reversal; I went from being a father to a son,” he says. “Internally, I was so angry because I didn’t want to be that way. It was a ‘too much’ moment when I realized how incapacitated I had become.”

Root says he wanted to give up at times, but with the support of his family and the healthcare team, he kept going. He worked daily with physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech pathologists and others on his healthcare team. After three weeks, he was able to speak and walk, and had minimum balance, hearing and vision issues. He was discharged home and continued to receive outpatient therapy. With some adaptations, Root now participates in activities he enjoys like golfing and hunting.

“I was still making adjustments after I got home, but time is a great healer,” Root says. Since his recovery, Root has shared his story numerous times with others and plans to continue to do so. “I want to offer hope and encouragement to others who have gone through what I’ve gone through,” he says. “I want them to have the courage to do what I did to recover. I hope I can be an inspiration.”

“I had a lot of people pulling for me,” he continues. “A stroke can take down anyone, but with the right care and attitude, you can live a full life again. I’m living proof. If I can do it, others can do it too!”

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