Jean Forte - The rehabilitation difference
After a massive stroke, Jean Forte and her family credit rehabilitation in helping her get her life back
Jean shares her story as part of a series on stroke rehabilitation to highlight the American Stroke Association’s new Life After Stroke Guide (download it directly by clicking here), part of the Together to End Stroke initiative, sponsored nationally by Encompass Health.
Two weeks before Christmas, Jean Forte stood before her church congregation and delivered one of the readings for the Sunday service.
It’s something she’s done many times, but that Sunday was a significant one for the Selma, Alabama resident; it was the first time Jean stood on her own before her church family in nearly nine months.
Jean, 57, suffered a massive heart attack on March 21, 2018, and not long after she arrived at the hospital that day, she had a hemorrhagic stroke, a rare and often fatal condition. She had four brain bleeds, and after several days in the ICU, she was placed on a ventilator.
Many of her caregivers were convinced she wouldn’t survive, but Jean and her family weren’t giving up.
“One of the doctors told me that we needed to take the vent out and let nature take its course,” recalled Gary, Jean’s husband of 33 years. “I wasn’t going to let them do that, and Jean, she came around.”
She was eventually moved to a private room, and after nearly a month in the hospital, Jean was ready to move to that next care setting.
When Jean was admitted to Encompass Health Montgomery, an in-patient rehab hospital, she couldn’t walk and could barely sit on her own.
“I remember that first day there,” Jean said. “I had no ability to really even sit up by myself or do anything like that. I knew I was there, but that was about it.”
Jean’s first stint at the rehab hospital lasted about a month. She made great progress, standing and walking some with assistance, but she still needed open-heart surgery.
After quintuple bypass, Jean returned to the rehab hospital to continue her rehabilitation.
The therapy was difficult, but Jean was determined to get better.
“They were tough,” she said. “It was very hard, but it was a good thing they were, and they didn’t just let me lay there. I never had the choice to give up, and that encouraged me like you wouldn’t believe.”
While at the hospital, Jean worked with physical, occupational and speech therapists. Jean’s sister, Janet Hand, said she watched her sister go from being almost immobile to standing on her own and walking with the help of a walker.
“Her therapists, they drove her hard,” Janet said. “But for her part, Jean never complained. She doesn’t to this day. They took on a lot when they took on Jean, but they set no limitations on her goals. There’s no way we could have come out of this whole ordeal without them.”
Days before Jean was to deliver the reading at her church, Gary watched as she Jean made her way to the kitchen table address Christmas cards.
“I had to tell her, ‘remember when it took four people to get you to stand up?’ Now you’re standing there by yourself,’” he said. “I took a picture of her right then and there. She’s come a long, long way.”
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