George Conway - Giving Back
(Photo, George and Vidhya Kannan, the director of therapy operations at Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital)
It takes an incredible person to walk through adversity, conquer it, and then turn around to help the person behind them. George Conway does exactly that, and he uses his experiences to encourage others.
George shares his story as part of a series on stroke rehabilitation to highlight the American Stroke Association’s new Life After Stroke Guide , part of the Together to End Stroke initiative, sponsored nationally by Encompass Health.
Even at an older age, most people in good health don’t anticipate facing a debilitating medical crisis that could change their lives forever. And when it comes to being in good health, George Conway was the model example.
“I was an active participating person. I worked five days a week, 60 hours a week. I played golf, I was active in the community. I was active with my children… I had a full life. I had been in the military a number of years and had retired,” George said. But despite being healthy and active, George had a stroke on April 15th, 2012. “I was brought to Fairfax hospital, where they administered tPA, which certainly helped me then. But when I left the hospital after three days, I came to this facility and was brought in on a stretcher. Unable to move my right side, to speak or carry on a conversation.”
George explained that it was difficult to adjust to his predicament. “There were so many things I could just not do. Walking was impossible at the time,” explained George. “My speech was really impacted. The ability to recall words or sentences, make meaning of words. All of these things were very confusing and nearly impossible. All of these things were addressed with the therapists here. I was astounded at the things I was able to do after only a short week and two weeks.”
Vidhya Kannan, the director of therapy operations at Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Northern Virginia in Aldie, served as George’s therapist during his stay. “When Mr. Conway got here he wasn’t able to do a lot of things. He was a little scared of what we expected out of him when we were talking about goals. There was a lot of fear in him for moving and getting out of the bed, but as we started tapping into the ones that interested him and what he wanted to do, we were able to progress pretty steadily,” Vidhya recalled. And progress is what she used to motivate George to continue pushing. Vidhya and the therapy team celebrated all victories – large or small – and reflected on the progress he had made. “He came here in a stretcher and he walked out without any assistance or devices.”
George, six years later, is still astounded at the progress he’s made since that fateful day. “It’s been six years, I think I did pretty well after a year,” George said. “I’m 74 now. I still play golf. I’ve been doing a lot of running and bicycling. Doing some Pilates, things like that. Things I hadn’t done before. My life now is different. I would even say better because I do things now that I want to do. “
If one thing is important to George, it’s community and giving back. Because of this, George still comes back to rehab to volunteer on a regular basis with others who have experienced a stroke. “One of the things I do is come back to this facility as a member of a stroke therapy group. There’s a number of us who come back that have gone through a stroke. We’ve all been at certain levels of a handicap, and are able to communicate to people who have just had strokes,’” George explains. “We teach them that they’re working with people who are good at their jobs, who know their bodies and can help them. We teach them to listen to them, and do what they say. That’s what members of the stroke therapy group try to do to encourage them.”
When Vidhya sees how far patients like George can come, she can only express how incredible it is. “It’s the most rewarding thing you could ask in your life. It’s an honor and privilege to be paid to do such a work. To see him, that’s our biggest reward. To see patients progress and come back as a full person, despite the deficits that they may have even now, they still feel and perceive themselves as a whole person. That’s very important.”
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