Lois Shipp lifted her left foot, set it on a low wooden box and grinned.
"There!" she said to Lake Regional Physical Therapist Assistant Ann Perry. "It came straight down, didn't swing to the side at all. Did you see that?"
Perry grinned back at her. "I did," she said. "Good job."
Shipp, 83, has good reason to feel proud. She has come a long way since a stroke on Feb. 13, 2017, left her left side paralyzed. May is National Stroke Awareness Month, and Shipp shares her story to encourage others facing a stroke diagnosis.
"Don't ever give up," she said. "You can have a life after a stroke."
From Depressed to Determined
Shipp wasn't always so positive about recovery. After her stroke, she spent six days in Lake Regional's Intensive Care Unit and then a day and a half on Lake Regional's Medical/Surgical Unit. From there, she went to Lake Regional Skilled Nursing Facility for intense therapy. She couldn't walk more than five feet with a walker, and even that required assistance from a therapist.
"She thought she was always going to be that way," said her husband, Don Shipp, who is also a stroke survivor.
"I was depressed, and I didn't want to get out of bed," Lois Shipp said, adding she refused to do therapy the first two days. Then Jeanne Marie Loggins, an occupational therapist assistant, explained her options.
"That changed my life," Lois said. "Jeanne Marie came into my room and said: 'Lois, do you know that if you do not try to get some therapy, you will have to leave here in a couple of days and go live in a nursing home? If that's what you want, that's fine, but you know, we can help you.' And there was something in her voice that sounded like she really cared. So I said, 'Then let's get at it.'"
And "get at it" Shipp did, impressing all of her caregivers.
"I worked hard and within two weeks, I could raise my arm above my head and was walking some with a walker," Shipp said.
And within a month, she could walk 350 feet with a walker and go up and down stairs.
"She worked very hard," Loggins said. "She wanted to be able to go home, and after 32 days in our Skilled Nursing Facility, she walked out of here with a walker."
Grateful and Strong
In the weeks since, Shipp has continued her occupational and physical therapy on an outpatient basis, coming to Lake Regional Hospital three times a week. She has all of her movement back in her left arm and enough control in her left hand to lift a glass and take a drink without any spilling. Her left foot has been the slowest to regain movement and control, and she wears a special brace to help her not drag her toes. At home, she continues to use a walker to be safe, but with her therapists' supervision, she walks with just a cane.
She continues to get stronger and is thankful for the therapists and other caregivers who have helped her recover.
"I could not have had a better team," Shipp said. "They have been so good to me and have become like family to me.
"I hope if you ever have a stroke, you will think positive and work hard to get your life back," she added. "You can do it, and it is worth all the hard work getting there. I worked as hard as I could, and by the grace of God, I'm where I am today."
Stroke Care at Lake Regional
As a state-designated Level II Stroke Center, Lake Regional Health System offers comprehensive stroke care and recovery, including treatment from a board-certified neurologist, specially trained Emergency Department physicians and staff, around-the-clock emergency imaging services, a skilled nursing facility located in the hospital, rehabilitation services and home health services. Learn more at www.lakeregional.com/StrokeCenter.
Suspect a Stroke? Act FAST
If you suspect a stroke, remember the word FAST.
F is for face — is it drooping?
A is for arms — can you lift them?
S is for speech — are you slurring your words?
T is for time — call 911 immediately because with stroke, time is brain.