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Doctors: Stroke Rehab Designed for Each Individual Yields Best Results

Nine years after a stroke that left her unable to walk, Courtney Wilkins still is making progress. (American Heart Association)
Nine years after a stroke that left her unable to walk, Courtney Wilkins still is making progress. (American Heart Association)
September 30, 2019

SEATTLE – The effects of a stroke are different for everyone, and that's why medical professionals say it's crucial to tailor rehabilitation to each individual.

Seattle resident Courtney Wilkins in 2010 suffered a stroke in her brain stem at age 30. Afterwards, she couldn't walk, use her right hand or sense pain or temperature on the left side of her body.

Wilkins stayed in inpatient rehabilitation for a month and then moved back to Arkansas with her parents for another four months of outpatient rehabilitation, where she was told she would never live on her own again.

But Wilkins is proof sticking to therapy is worth it.

"After about 18 months, [I] was able to take my first steps unassisted and now I walk with one forearm crutch,” she relates. “I had gone from being in the chair primarily for three years to being on two forearm crutches to now one forearm crutch."

Wilkins eventually moved back to Seattle, learned how to be left-handed and started a career as a data analyst.

Nearly 800,000 people have their lives changed by stroke every year.

The most rapid recovery typically occurs in the first three to six months after a stroke, according to health professionals. But Wilkins notes that doesn't mean people stop getting better after that.

Even now – nine years after her stroke – she continues to make progress.

"It's slower but it is still possible, and some of the progress is not even so much that you have to have the use back exactly the way you had it before, but with some creativity, there's very little that you can't find a way to do one way or another," she states.

The American Stroke Association has tips for stroke survivors and caregivers.

It suggests asking your doctor for an assessment of physical and cognitive challenges and how to address each challenge, managing risk factors to prevent another stroke, talking with your health care provider about financial constraints and following up with your doctor regularly.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA