Getting Back to Life After a Stroke


Vera Mayhall has been known to socialize with friends at the local country club in Ada, Okla., and attend weekly church services. She even recently passed her driving test, again. This may not seem too significant, except for the fact that Vera is 94 years old!

What’s just as surprising is that Vera had no known history of heart trouble until she suffered a stroke in September 2014. She was living independently at the time but had neighbors and family who regularly checked on her. When several phone calls went unanswered on September 5, family members had a neighbor look in on her, and it’s a good thing they did.

“She was sitting at her kitchen table and suddenly was unable to move her right arm and leg very well or speak,” said granddaughter Stephanie Smith, who happens to be a physical therapist at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. “The neighbor found my grandmother on the floor and quickly called 911. When I contacted the hospital to speak with the ER staff, the doctor asked me if grandma was usually weak on her right side, confused and slurring her speech. The answer was a resounding NO.”

The hospital in Ada was not equipped to perform an MRI or provide a neurologist to examine Vera. She needed to be transferred to a facility that could provide a higher level of care. The obvious choice was Texas Health Dallas.

A Commitment to Recovery

At Texas Health Dallas, it was determined that Vera had suffered an ischemic stroke due to a blood clot. The event triggered an irregular heart rhythm, or atrial fibrillation, plus congestive heart failure. As serious as this chain of events was, the medical team that met Vera upon her arrival was well-prepared to treat her. The team included hospitalist Sarita Sharma, M.D., neurologist Puneet Gupta, M.D., cardiologist Martin Berk, M.D., countless nurses and patient care technicians, members of the acute rehabilitation stroke team and stroke coordinator Karen Sacks, who kept Vera’s family up to speed on her ongoing care plan.

After several weeks of intensive care, Vera was ready to begin the process of rehabilitation. It was time for physical therapists Lana Bernier and Thuan Tran, occupational therapists Laurie Staempfli and Tiffany Johnson, and speech therapist Madeleine Uy of the acute rehab team to go to work to help Vera relearn her movement and communication skills with the goal of returning her to an independent lifestyle.

“The therapy was somewhat complicated, but everyone made me think that I had potential,” Vera said. “Everyone was so encouraging. They wanted me to do the therapy for my well-being. I am thankful for the many people who had a hand in caring for me, including my own granddaughter. I would prescribe Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas 100 percent to anyone in need of critical care.”

Signs of Improvement

Vera was soon transferred to the hospital’s Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit. At the time, she was unable to swallow, she needed maximum assistance to move from her bed to a chair, she still had periods of confusion, and she was barely able to move her right arm and leg to fully stand or walk.

Weeks of additional therapy included ball exercises to work Vera’s arms and legs, filling in blanks to complete basic sentences and peg activities aimed at improving Vera’s visual motor coordination and hand movements. One of Vera’s many shining stars was speech therapist Carly Cagle, who the family says worked tirelessly with Vera and helped her to successfully swallow again.

“My grandma adored Carly, and she helped grandma regain her quality of life by getting her to eat and drink,” Stephanie remembered. “Her nurses and therapists Christina Epperson and Kristina Delgado were so attentive as well. When grandma had to leave inpatient rehab and transfer to a skilled nursing facility, it was emotional for her and our family.”

“To go from not being able to communicate, having confusion and being unable to move her right side, swallow, eat or drink to communicating, moving around, speaking clearly, and eating and drinking is priceless. The team never underestimated my grandma and her ability to fight for her independence. She is now walking without assistance and is back to living her life,” Stephanie added.

To learn more about patients who have benefited from rehabilitation services at Texas Health Dallas, please visit

Physicians on the medical staff practice independently and are not employees or agents of the hospital or Texas Health Resources.

Leave a Reply

All comments are moderated before they’re posted, and we reserve the right to moderate any comments or commenters that are abusive, libelous, off-topic, use excessive foul language, or that are indecent. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.