Compassionate Care for Stroke Survivor at Providence Holy Cross

August 01, 2013

When Michele Krieg’s alarm sounded one summer morning, she found she couldn’t speak. Still in bed, she felt as if she were simply in a stage between dreaming and being fully awake. Only when her husband tried to rouse her, did they both discover that something was terribly wrong.

Michele had suffered a stroke, which had cut off vital blood flow to the brain.

“I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t even open my mouth,” recalls Michele, now 54.

Tests revealed that Michele had an irregular heartbeat that had caused a blood clot in her heart that then dislodged and traveled to her brain. As a result of her stroke, the area of her brain related to language was damaged.

“Before the stroke, speaking, reading and writing came so naturally for me,” says Michele. “When, all of a sudden, you can’t do it at all, it’s very frightening.”

After a brief hospitalization, Michele began to work with Barbara Lange, Speech/Language Therapist at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center.

Michele approached therapy with Barbara like a full-time job. “When I first met Barbara, I couldn’t even talk. I had to learn to talk starting with vowel sounds,” Michele explains. “Barbara gave me homework. She challenged me and encouraged me to do all that I could do.”

“Without the opportunity to work with Barbara and have outpatient rehab at Holy Cross, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” says Michele.

Barbara is equally impressed with Michele, whom she calls a “superstar.”

“Michele’s progress has gone above and beyond what you’d expect because of her positive attitude and her initiative,” Barbara says.

Because Michele is a fire inspector, Barbara created a mock fire inspection for Michele as one of her final activities, which she passed with flying colors. After missing work for 4½ months, Michele was ready to return to her job.

When you have a stroke, it is important to recognize the early signs and act quickly. As a designated stroke center, Providence Holy Cross may be able to use “clot-busting” medications to help reduce the severity of a stroke for patients who reach us as soon as possible.

In Michele’s case, she’d known something was wrong for quite a while before her stroke. “I tell people to listen to your body,” she says.

How well a person recovers from a stroke is highly individual and highly variable. Compassionate caregivers such as Barbara work closely with the entire stroke rehab team to give stroke survivors the best possible chance to enjoy a meaningful life.

Every day, the caregivers at Holy Cross make a difference in the lives of people recovering from serious illness and injury.