Taking a life-changing event in stride
Pictured: The fantastic stroke care team at Cabrini
Feeling under the weather with a nasty case of the flu, Stephen, 66, took an afternoon nap on May 28.
When he woke, his wife Jenny was concerned by his appearance that the left side of his mouth was drooping and he was slurring his words.
Recognising the signs of stroke, Jenny brought him to the Cabrini Emergency Department.
“I knew he’d be seen straight away here,” she says. “Within five minutes of arriving he was on a heart monitor, on oxygen. That’s why I brought him here.”
Intensive Care Physician Dr Steve Philpot says that with bilateral pneumonia, kidney and liver failure and an irregular heartbeat, Stephen was in bad shape.
“He was very sick for the first few nights, and I certainly thought it was possible that he wouldn’t survive,” he says.
“We shared that information with Jenny, who was incredible throughout the episode. She was very calm and able to really advocate for Stephen’s wishes.
“Stephen was having a lot of trouble speaking, and prior to us intubating him it was very frustrating for him to not be able to talk. However he was incredibly patient and was able to remain calm despite not being able to communicate.”
Stephen has virtually no memory of the 12 days he spent intubated, in ICU for a total of 16 days.
Months later, Stephen is working hard and seeing significant progress in his recovery. His care is overseen by a multidisciplinary team of Cabrini specialists, with services managed by Cabrini’s Stroke Care Coordinator.
“Everyone is saying now that I’m much more animated and my voice is stronger,” Stephen says.
“I had no use of my left arm, which was really awkward. Now I can pull the arm into my chest, and press down, I’ve got a bit of power. Physio have started me walking on a rail.
“I’ve had a neurologist, urologist and cardiologist. So it’s been really good medical attention. And the nursing staff are absolutely fantastic.”
With the support of his wife and three adult children, Stephen is ready to move to a rehabilitation facility. As a high-achiever in his career and someone who has competed in endurance events such as Iron Man, marathons and cycling, Stephen believes a positive mindset is key in his recovery.
“There’s no point fretting or wasting energy worrying. I’m getting great care and there’s a lot of positive reinforcement. That helps.”
Jenny agrees, saying, “Steve’s attitude through all of this has been impressive. I’m actually in awe of it.
“This is a huge life-changing event, the stroke. But from what I can see, he has accepted it and is getting on with it.”
Cabrini Malvern established a dedicated stroke service in 2014 which cares for patients who have presented to the emergency department with acute stroke symptoms or who show signs of stroke while an inpatient.
The team includes a neurologist, stroke coordinator, speech pathologist, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, dietitian, social worker and pastoral care practitioner, and the nursing team.
Our thanks to Stephen and Jenny for sharing their story.