Though he was having trouble typing on a keyboard and felt a little lightheaded, Bill Salisbury, then 66 years old, didn’t call 911. In fact, it wasn’t until nine hours later that he went to an emergency room where he was told he had suffered a stroke.
Flashback: The Events Leading Up
On Jan. 10, 2011, Bill sat at a desk in the basement of his St. Bernard home, clicking away at his computer. He noticed he was making more typing mistakes than usual but, “I’m a bad typist anyways so that didn’t surprise me,” he laughs.
The next morning, when he woke up, he still felt lightheaded. He mentioned it to his wife, Julie, who suggested she take him to the hospital, but again, Bill brushed off the mild symptoms. So Julie left for work. Shortly after, however, Bill got up to use the restroom and felt weak. Minutes later, he became dizzy and slowly slid down his bedroom wall.
“I didn’t have what I’d always seen and heard were normal stroke symptoms, where your speech is slurred and the side of your face drops,” he adds. Bill promptly called Julie who dialed 911 and immediately rushed home.
Bill was transferred by ambulance to Good Samaritan Hospital’s emergency department, where he had an MRI, which confirmed he had suffered a stroke on the right side of his brain – which affected the left side of his body – about nine hours prior. "And, of course I'm left-handed," Bill jokes.
From there, he was sent to the intensive care unit (ICU), where he stayed for three days until a bed opened up in the inpatient rehabilitation unit. Over the next three days, Bill was evaluated and assessed by his primary care doctor, Stephen Cleves MD, and physical medicine and rehabilitation doctor, Steven Wunder MD, who both noticed the function of the left side of Bill’s body was declining. The doctors requested a second MRI, which solidified their concerns: the stroke damage was more extensive than they first thought.
Starting his Inpatient Rehabilitation Program
The next four weeks in inpatient rehab were a whirlwind. Bill spent four to five hours each day rotating between occupational and physical therapy, with his main physical therapist being Marielle Schmidt. "She was a sweetheart," Bill smiles. Bill also jokes that he mastered the art of taking a 10-minute nap during this time, noting how he'd doze off briefly in between sessions. "I was teased by the staff about it," he recalls. "They'd always say, 'you can't take a nap in 10 minutes,' and I'd say, 'watch me!'"
From there, Bill transitioned to six months of outpatient physical therapy, where he continued working to regain his independence and mobility – especially on the left side of his body. He specifically recalls his outpatient physical therapist, Jeremy Ramage, who Bill calls "a real task master," adding, “he was always pushing and congratulating me, and if I was having trouble with something, we’d work until I improved.”
By the end of Bill’s outpatient rehab stint, he was feeling good, both physically and mentally. He even rejoined his walking club so he could get active and drop a few pounds per Dr. Cleves’ advice. He met, almost daily, to walk with a group at Kenwood Mall, affectionately calling it the senior’s group. “At 67, I was the kid of the group,” he says. Bill walked with a cane, but still drove himself to and from meetings – both accomplishments he takes pride in, considering the severity of his stroke. He even had to retake his driving test. (Per Ohio law, stroke victims need medical clearance to return to driving.)
An Unexpected Turn of Events
Then, nearly a year-and-a-half after joining the group, things changed. Late on Jan. 1, 2013, after dining with neighbors, he came down with an illness that was going around. Bill the spent the entire next day in bed, but got antsy and decided he was ready to rejoin his friends on Jan. 3 for their daily mall walks. “In spite of my wife suggesting I take another day to recuperate, I didn’t,” he says.
About 50 feet into his walk, Bill lost his balance and fell to the concrete floor; he broke his left hip, which was his stroke side. That's when he had his second trip back to Good Samaritan, this time for hip surgery. Within a few days of arriving, his rehab team discovered Bill had atrial fibrillation, so he spent four days in cardiac care, where his cardiologist finally had to convert Bill to get his heart back into rhythm. "That was a tough couple of days," Bill recalls.
Bill spent the next four weeks in physical and occupational therapy, working especially hard to relearn activities of daily living, like getting dressed and showering. While it was mentally trying for him to be back in the hospital, he appreciated having some familiar faces on his care team. "I was lucky enough to have the same male nurse. He was wonderful," Bill says. "Even though I wasn’t in his section, he came down the length of the floor, every time, just for me, and that was good because I was very comfortable and I liked him. It's always nice to have a familiar face."
After inpatient rehab, Bill had both his physical and occupational therapists come out to his house a couple times a week to continue therapy for about a month. While Bill is mainly wheel-chair bound, he's able to live independently and credits both his work ethic and his care team, especially his primary occupational therapist, Lisa, for guiding him through rehab. "Lisa pushed hard. She really did, but that's what I needed and we both knew that. She was amazing" Bill says.
Where Bill is Now: Giving Back
Now, less than a year after discharge, Bill's giving back. He hosts monthly "lunch bunch" meetings at Good Samaritan's inpatient rehab unit, where he shows patients some of the techniques he uses to complete daily, household activities with independence and ease. "I had been a part of the lunch bunch when i was in the hospital so I asked if I could lead some sessions since I enjoyed it so much," he says. "The issues I discuss are things that have helped me, but I also realize that everyone's circumstances are different. Plus, the therapists, as amazing as they are in the hospital, you can't picture what it's like as a rehab patient unless you've been there. I'm able to give that perspective."