Dave Lickel, 38, works as an office manager at a courier company and enjoys camping and spending time with friends and close-knit family. One spring day, Dave was relaxing at home when he started losing the feeling in his left side. He went to sleep for a few hours hoping it would go away. Unfortunately, things were worse when he woke up. He started to lose his balance when walking and was unable to hold his phone. His mom took him to the hospital where they checked his vitals and performed a chest x-ray as well as CT and MRI scans of his brain. It was then doctors realized Dave had a stroke. He was in the hospital for 10 days stabilizing before he was ready for the next step in his recovery at Helen M. Simpson Rehabilitation Hospital.
When Dave arrived, he had significant weakness in his left arm and leg, needing two people to help him stand and walk short distances. He also needed help with daily living activities like bathing, dressing, grooming and getting in and out of bed. His goals included being able to walk, drive and return to work. “I wanted to be able to do all of my daily activities and even get back to camping and being with my family and friends,” said Dave.
In physical therapy, Dave struggled with walking due to significant weakness in his left ankle and knee. He was unable to keep his knee from snapping backwards into hyperextension, causing instability with each step. Dave also had issues lifting his left leg, which put him at high risk for tripping. Therapists focused on strengthening the muscles responsible for lifting the leg upward and controlling the knee. “They had me stand up and sit down multiple times with a block underneath my right foot to improve the strength in my left leg,” said Dave. “It wasn’t easy, but I could definitely feel it in my legs after we did it, so I knew it worked.”
They also wrapped an ace bandage around his foot to maintain ankle stability and prevent tripping. Eventually, Dave got his own custom-made ankle brace, which was the key to getting him walking independently. Dave shared, “They helped me get my brace for my foot, which helped me walk a lot better.”
Dave and his team also focused on going up and down stairs, getting in and out of bed, going up and down a ramp, walking on uneven surfaces and progressing from walking with a walker to a cane. At first, Dave was only able to walk short distances with the walker but over time was able to walk longer distances with a cane. As he neared discharge, Dave worked on high-level balance tasks on foam surfaces, on higher box steps, and with less assistance from his therapist.
In occupational therapy, Dave worked on increasing upper body strength and endurance through exercises and activities. As he gained strength, he began performing self-care tasks, such as shower transfers, bed transfers, couch/recliner transfers and kitchen mobility, with greater independence. Therapists worked with Dave on getting around a home environment with both a rolling walker and a cane, and worked on higher-level daily living activities like laundry, housekeeping, bed making, medication management and cooking. They also worked on strengthening the small muscles in his left arm and hand to improve his typing so he could eventually return to work. “Working with the nut and bolt box for fine motor skills really helped because now I can hold my phone and even text with my left hand,” said Dave.
Dave credits his family with helping to get him through this journey. “My mother came here every night to support me emotionally. Various family members got the house ready for me to return home safely. They had a ramp installed and gathered equipment that I would need to return home.” He also credits his therapy team with the progress he made. “The rehab team pushed me when I needed to be pushed. They listened to me about what my goals were. I didn’t think I would be walking with a cane when I got out of here.”
After 19 days, Dave walked out of the hospital to return home. He was most excited about sleeping in his own bed and spending time with family and friends. Once he gets settled, Dave will begin outpatient rehabilitation at Select Physical Therapy to build on the gains made during his hospital stay.