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Patient’s Golf Game Still Up To Par Despite Stroke

Published on Monday, November 30, 2015
Frank Bell stroke patient

When it comes to stroke, even the most subtle signs of its presence should not be ignored. A sudden severe headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, vertigo and visual changes, can all be indications someone is having a stroke, especially if these are not normally experienced by the person. This was the case for Frank Bell, age 59 of Clio. He and his wife, Mabel, had returned home from the movie theatre on September 16, 2012 when he suddenly became unsteady. Then he had a severe headache, nausea and vomiting. Mabel called their family physician, and they were instructed to go the Emergency Department. Frank needed emergency surgery.

“Imaging of Frank’s brain showed that he had evidence of cerebellar stroke secondary to occlusion of branch arteries of the vertebral basilar system,” states Dr. Jawad Shah. “The arteries in this region of the brain are very critical and when flow stops one has a stroke. The stroke affected Frank’s brain to the point that it caused him to lose function but also began to swell enough that it compressed his brain stem. This required an emergency surgery called a craniectomy, a procedure in which a portion of the skull is removed to allow space for the brain to swell, without compressing the brain stem.” Dr. Shah goes on to explain, “In addition to the brain swelling, Frank also developed hydrocephalus which is an independent problem. The brain naturally produces water that flows through its different parts including the brain stem. When there is swelling in certain areas, that flow can be interrupted. An external catheter had to be put in place to allow the natural flow to occur. The situation was very serious, and we were unsure whether he would survive such a devastating stroke and the malignant brain swelling. In the initial stages of his care and treatment our role was to do everything we could to give him the best chance for meaningful survival.”

Frank did survive, and after spending time in the Intensive Care Unit he was transferred to the inpatient rehabilitation floor for a few days of therapy. Once able to return home, he still had trouble with memory and weakness in his hands and left arm so he was prescribed outpatient therapy at the McLaren Neurologic Rehabilitation Institute. There he received physical, occupational and speech therapy over the course of several months.

“I really enjoyed golfing before my stroke and hoped to continue playing after it happened,” states Frank. “My occupational therapist helped me with my swing. Then I was made aware of McLaren’s Adaptive Golf Program which helps people who have suffered a severe injury or illness use special techniques and devices so they can play again. They even have a league that I volunteer for now.”

As part of McLaren’s continuum of stroke care, McLaren Neurological Rehabiitation Institute also offers a free stroke education and support series two times each month. During the first half of each session clinicians discuss a variety of topics on a rotational basis. The second half of each session is set aside as support time for survivors and their caregivers.

“My wife and I really like the education and support sessions,” adds Frank. “We get to ask questions, do arts and crafts, and strike up friendships. It’s always good to be able to talk to the experts. Now that I have had a stroke I am at higher risk for having another one. Attending the group sessions helps me worry less. I highly recommend that other stroke survivors and their caregivers participate.”