Picture your life at the age of 40. Are you taking your children to little league games or making strides in your career? Are you traveling the world or giving time to a local philanthropy? How about recovering from a stroke?
Stroke is the leading cause of serious, long-term disability and the fourth-leading cause of death in the United States. A 40-year-old Chris Shidemantle was leading a normal life when stroke took his independence on August 6, 2014. He was relaxing after working all day and having dinner at home with his parents when the left side of his body went numb. Chris yelled for his parents to call 9-1-1 right away.
On August 14, after a week in the hospital, Chris was admitted into HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Sewickley for inpatient rehabilitation. Unable to walk, he was having problems moving the left side of his body and could not swallow a glass of water upon arrival.
“From the moment I was greeted at the door, I felt at home,” said Chris. “The admitting nurse, Ursula had waited past her shift for me to arrive even though my transport was late.”
He found strength from within with positive reinforcement from his therapists and the HealthSouth Sewickley team. Chris needed to regain his independence and beat his stroke.
He set a small goal each day for therapy ending on a positive note, even if it meant repeating an earlier accomplishment and completing extra sets. Chris wanted to stand for the first time on his birthday and he made that goal a reality on August 18.
While Chris was able to participate in two months of inpatient rehabilitation approved by his insurance company, the average stroke patient only receives two to three weeks of therapy and he took advantage of every day.
As he gained momentum in mobility, Chris found new motivation by sharing his story with other patients, encouraging them to push through therapy.
“I thought if I can’t have a great day, maybe I can help someone else,” said Chris.” “That’s more rewarding for me.”
Chris received immense support from all the right places through his recovery. His father committed himself to supporting Chris and attended the majority of therapy sessions, learning exercises to help Chris with at home and driving him to and from HealthSouth Sewickley. When released from inpatient, Chris continued six months of outpatient therapy before returning to work part-time at Baglier Buick GMC where he still works with customers daily as a service consultant.
Chris was allowed to focus on getting better and was told he would still have a job when he returned by Baglier Buick GMC owner, Dennis Baglier. Chris recalls speaking with Dennis who told him, “You are part of the future.” Baglier Buick GMC created him a new work station accessible for his new locking chair provided by the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR), an organization that provides vocational rehabilitation services to help persons with disabilities prepare for, obtain or maintain employment.
Members of the HealthSouth Sewickley team took extra steps to help Chris reach out to OVR and receive assistance in modifying his home and receiving his chair for work.
Chris believes that building upon and completing small goals will ultimately result in achieving his main goal of regaining full use of his left side and walk independently again.
“I think it is important to illustrate how completing small goals brings a patient closer to their main goal,” said Chris. “In a sense, to see some light at the end of the tunnel.”
Now attending outpatient therapy at HealthSouth Sewickley two days a week, Chris is able to walk hands free during sessions and uses a single point cane otherwise—just one step closer to his goal of regaining total independence and returning to work full-time. If you ask Chris how he made it this far and continues to relentlessly demand more of himself he would tell you, it starts from within and ends on a positive note.