Imagine it’s an ordinary day. You wake up and go about your normal routine when suddenly you collapse. In the ambulance, they say, “You’re having a stroke.” You realize you can’t respond or even move. Your world has shattered in the blink of an eye.
Tragically, that’s exactly what happened to Ron Clohecy, 47, of Portsmouth, Rhode Island last June. “I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t even turn my head. I lost everything,” says Ron.
Luckily for Ron, he was rushed to nearby Newport Hospital, a certified Primary Stroke Center. That designation means our care for victims of stroke meets eight rigorous national standards, including treating for blood clots within three hours of a stroke.
But for Ron, hours narrowed to minutes. Ron suffered several strokes in the ER as clots from his heart pushed up into his brain. Doctors immediately transferred Ron to our intensive care unit (ICU), to give him the highest level of stroke care possible.
Strokes are terrifying, and Ron was in especially bad shape. The strokes caused crippling weakness in both his arms and legs. He was instantly unable to speak or swallow and needed a feeding tube. Ron couldn’t leave the ICU for 26 days.
Even when he was moved to the 4th floor of Newport Hospital’s Vanderbilt Rehabilitation Center, Ron needed around-the-clock nursing care, depending on others for everything. He couldn’t even sit up in bed. As you can understand, Ron was devastated by his condition. He began to struggle with depression.
“That’s when we began to see the real Ron,” recalls Claudia Wheeler, MD. Dr. Wheeler was Ron’s physiatrist, a rehabilitation physician. Primary Stroke Centers like ours evaluate patients for rehabilitation early in their care to maximize recovery and minimize disability.
“Ron was like a sponge; taking in everything and learning to apply it. He was the model patient—the kind of patient we dream of taking care of,” Dr. Wheeler says. “I was just a ball of putty, waiting to be molded,” says Ron. “I’m thankful for everything the nurses and therapists did for me, especially the things I thought I could not do.”
With the help of his doctors and therapy -- four hours a day, five times a week -- Ron began to speak again. He especially enjoyed his visits with Cassidy, the therapy dog: “I’d throw the ball and pet Cassidy,” he says. “She provided great support to me.”
After spending over three months at Newport Hospital, Ron received in-home therapy for two more months. He then graduated to outpatient therapy involving intensive physical, occupational and speech therapies several times per week.
A year later, Ron continues to improve both physically and emotionally thanks to all the services provided by Newport Hospital. Participating in monthly support group meetings for stroke patients has profoundly helped Ron: “I feel confident there and I can share what I’m feeling. I tell the other patients, ‘Don’t give up. You’re going to have good and bad days. Sometimes it feels like it’s all uphill, but you can’t give up.’”
“The people at Newport Hospital gave me my life back,” says Ron. “I am so thankful to everyone I met there, from the 2nd to the 4th to the 6th floors. All I can do is keep getting better and giving back to other patients.”