Anne Rohe, a former nurse, was just beginning to enjoy retirement when the COVID-19 pandemic prevented her from going to yoga classes, visiting museums with friends and spending more time with her family. Then, on September 1 to be exact, she woke up feeling nauseous, dizzy and short of breath. The 68-year-old widow called 911 and was taken to Clara Maass Medical Center, where doctors treated her for atrial fibrillation (a rapid heartbeat) and conducted a series of tests, one of which uncovered mitral valve disease. A cardiac catheterization was performed and Anne was placed on special medications.
However, her status declined and an emergency CT scan revealed a blood clot in her brain. She underwent a craniotomy to surgically remove the clot but damage had already been done. Anne was unable to walk or carry out daily activities and had difficulty speaking and swallowing. She chose Kessler Institute for her rehabilitation.
Anne was admitted to Kessler with one goal in mind: to reclaim her independence. She worked with a physician-led team of nurses, therapists and other rehabilitation specialists who tailored treatment to her individual needs.
While doctors and nurses provided medical and medication management, Anne’s physical therapists helped her build strength and mobility. In occupational therapy (OT), she gained the skills and strategies to perform daily tasks. “My OTs taught me ways to do things both ‘smarter,’ like how to organize my clothes, and safer, whether sitting when getting dressed or doing everyday household chores,” said Anne.
Communication was perhaps her biggest challenge. Initially, her speech was limited and she had difficulty finding her words, a condition called aphasia. Intensive therapy, combined with practical techniques, helped. “My speech therapists wrote things down to help me think of a word. That still helps me now when I can’t think of a word,” said Anne. “If I try to picture the words written down, it helps me find the right ones.”
Anne’s speech therapists also provided exercises and training to improve her cognitive skills, including the ability to process information and carry on conversations, as well as her ability to swallow, enabling her to transition from pureed foods to a regular diet.
Despite limited visitation due to COVID-19, Anne’s daughter and son were a constant source of support, helping to ensure a safe and smooth transition home. Anne admits, “I’m so lucky to have been at Kessler and get the care that I did. I’m very grateful, but still can’t wait to go home.”
After just three weeks, Anne made significant progress and was ready to return to the comforts of home and move forward with her life. She said that at times she questioned why she was doing a particular exercise, but realized there was a good reason. “You have to trust the people who are taking care of you. They’re the experts. They know what they’re doing and I knew what I needed to do. That made all the difference.”