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McLaren Rehab Delivers Stroke Care and Education Couple Need

Published on Monday, November 30, 2015
Deb and Hank Enriquez

The coldest day of 2015 forever changed the lives of Deb and Hank Enriquez, but not because of Mother Nature’s antics. Deb was having a normal work day on February 24, as a U.S. mail carrier when she suffered a severe hemorrhagic stroke. Only 50 percent of people survive this type of stroke. Fortunately, one of the homeowner’s along the route heard his mail flap close and opened his door to try and say hello to Deb. Instead of catching Deb walking away, he found her face down in the snow. He got her into his house and called 9-1-1. Deb was taken to McLaren Flint, the only area hospital to offer 24/7 interventional neurology care. A blood vessel in her brain was bleeding, and time was of the essence.

Deb would end up needing a highly specialized procedure called a neuro coiling. This procedure involves a tiny, flexible catheter being inserted into the groin and threaded up through the body to the bleeding blood vessel in the brain. Once in place, small platinum coils are inserted up through the catheter to the aneurysm to seal it off. Deb needed 10 coils. She also needed a cranial flap, in which a portion of the skull is removed to accommodate swelling of the brain.

Deb spent a few weeks in the Intensive Care Unit at McLaren Flint where she was in a coma until March 12, her husband Hank’s birthday. She progressed to a step-down unit, and then was transferred to the hospital’s Inpatient Rehab Unit. Although improving, when she first arrived to the Inpatient Rehab Unit on March 25, Deb was still greatly affected by her stroke. She was not able to eat or drink anything by mouth, she could not brush her teeth or comb her own hair, and she was unaware of her deficits and only following directions with 20 percent accuracy. However, Hank was always supportive and actively a part of her treatment. The exceptional care of the staff, family support and Deb’s drive helped her take another big step in her recovery on April 7 when she was cleared to eat a regular diet. By the time she was cleared to go home she could sit up in her wheelchair without assistance, name pictures, follow directions and dress and bathe with the help of only one person.

“Deb was impaired in multiple areas when she first came to the unit,” states Tina Craciun, Speech Language Pathologist. “It brings tears to my eyes to think about her success and the support of her wonderful husband. It was so exciting to be the person to give her good news on a daily and weekly basis. It was such a good feeling when she was finally able to go home.”  

The next chapter in Deb and Hank’s book of miracles would be time at McLaren Neurologic Rehabilitation Institute  for intense outpatient physical, occupational, recreational and speech therapy. Deb’s stroke was on the right side of her brain so the left side of her body was affected. That side is still weaker, and although she can see out of her left eye, her brain still does not recognize that something is there.

“The physicians and therapists told us her recovery will be a long distance marathon, and that it could take two to three years before she really improves enough to do most things herself,” states Hank. “NRI really has a nice program that prepares you for what you need to do at home. They taught us exercises and even gave us some of the tools we need to continue her therapy at home like resistance bands and marbles.”

Hank describes Deb as very driven.

“Everyone at therapy was awesome. They make you do what you need to do to get better,” states Deb. “My therapists all helped me so much and Kellie Stites, my Recreational Therapist, always made therapy fun. We got to make blueberry muffins, play games on my tablet which helps with my eyes and learn so many things to do at home. I am grateful for all of their help.”

Hank is also grateful that Deb was so close to McLaren Flint when she had the stroke and for all of the specialized stroke and rehabilitative care she received throughout her journey. He has been a devoted “unlicensed” therapist to Deb since her insurance covered therapy care was fulfilled back in August. He has shared 27 years with the love of his life and is looking forward to many more.


“We are not going to let this stop us,” adds Hank. “We have a lot more to do together. It is all about the saying ‘live, laugh, love’ for us.”