Jean O’Connell Jenkins
Jean O’Connell Jenkins is mother of a 17 year old daughter and a career woman who works as an administrator in child endangerment issues. She’s one of six sisters and one brother—the middle child, with a healthy independent 90-year-old mother. What you may not have guessed is Jean is also a stroke survivor.
On October 25, 2014, Jean was meeting a friend for dinner at a local restaurant. As they were seated she began removing her blazer but there was a problem. She could not get her left arm out of the sleeve, realizing her left leg would not move either.
As Jean’s friend called 911, she began correcting her as she spoke to the operator, describing her symptoms exactly—the symptoms of a stroke.
Jean was a couple weeks shy of her 59th birthday and was celebrating good health. In July she had great reports following her yearly physical with good blood pressure and no risk factors present. She was the picture of health.
Jean remained in the intensive care unit four days while three of her sisters, an attorney, a retired nurse manager and a retired nurse, researched inpatient rehabilitation hospitals. A common joke Jean likes to make, “Did you hear the one about the attorney, the nurse manager and the nurse who walk into HealthSouth?”
The first time Jean entered HealthSouth Sewickley she was terrified and wanted to go home. She felt out of place as a young, health-minded person. Jean was unable to walk when she arrived and was flaccid on her left side.
Despite being guarded, Jean began her physical therapy, gradually making friends among the staff and learning everyone by name. It didn’t take long for her to realize they had learned her name too.
She felt lucky to be working with skilled and compassionate therapists who were just as determined as she was.
On November 12, HealthSouth Sewickley had Jean’s daughter and her friends come in for a 70s inspired party complete with virgin margaritas for Jean’s birthday. As a present from her family, Jean received an Alex and Ani bracelet with a compass charm on it.
“They said it was to help me find my way,” said Jean. “It gives me continued courage and perseverance when I look at it, kicks my butt when I need it, and gives me the will to be healthy for my daughter, Taylor.”
By the end of November Jean’s perseverance paid off. She was walking with a cane and discharged to begin outpatient therapy.
“My therapists [Wendy and Debbi] were task masters,” said Jean. “They push you, but with a smile on their face.”
Jean is happy to be back helping her daughter with college plans and was able to take her to tour campuses. She’s also back to her career part time where even her coworkers help keep her accountable with her journey to health and looks forward to being back full time as she continues to progress through occupational therapy at HealthSouth Sewickley.