Smoothing the Road to Recovery

By Terry & Elaine Pullen

The road to recovery after a stroke can be a long one. No one knows this better than Terry Pullen, who suffered a stroke in January and has been working through various forms of rehabilitation since.

But thanks to the comprehensive rehabilitative services offered by MCMC, patients like Pullen are able to benefit from a continuum of care to help speed their recovery. Beginning his journey in the MCMC emergency department set the Dufur resident down a path of care specifically designed so his entire rehabilitation process would be interconnected and his care team working together to ensure his recovery went as smoothly as possible.

Pullen was working as a driver for FedEx Ground when he started experiencing an unusual feeling in his left leg and arm. Aware he was experiencing stroke symptoms, Pullen recalls being able to drive himself to the MCMC emergency department.

Once he arrived, though, “I couldn’t get out of the truck,” he says. “So I started honking the horn. ER doctors and nurses came out and got me out of the truck and into a wheelchair and got me inside.”

After being stabilized at MCMC, Pullen spent a week at Oregon Health & Science University before returning to MCMC to start an intensive inpatient rehabilitation program at mPower.

At mPower patients recovering from strokes and other illnesses or traumatic injuries, participate in intensive physical, occupational and speech therapy three hours a day. The six-bed unit is staffed with a team of rehabilitation specialists and offers 24-hour medical supervision.

While at mPower, Pullen participated in all three forms of therapy, due to speech and cognition impairment and left-sided weakness. He was able to leave mPower after a month, but wasn’t ready to start outpatient therapy yet. So MCMC’s Visiting Health Services team stepped in to assist with the transition of care, in what the program’s co-director Marcia Medler calls a “bridge” between intensive inpatient care and outpatient therapy.

“It’s not the best to go from being cared for in an institution straight to outpatient care,” Medler says. “Visiting Health provides a range of care and services during that intermediary phase.”

Through Visiting Health, Pullen was able to continue rehabilitation therapy from his own home. Rehabilitation therapists can outfit a patient’s home with the medical equipment they will need for recovery as well as assess components of the home that may be impeding the recovery process, such as uneven steps.

Physical therapists visit patients’ homes and are able to conduct the same therapy they would conduct in a hospital setting. Often, patients are already acquainted with the physical therapist when Visiting Health takes over.

“Some of the outpatient therapists work for Visiting Health and vice versa, and some of our therapists work part-time at the hospital, so it’s really nice we get to know the patient on all different levels,” Medler says. “That’s one of the things that makes patients’ transition so smooth.”

Once the Visiting Health team determined Pullen was ready, his rehabilitation continued in MCMC’s Outpatient Therapy program at Water’s Edge, which he continues to visit regularly.

The recovery process has been fairly smooth, according to Pullen, who is about six months ahead in a recovery process that typically takes two years. Since his time at mPower, Pullen has been surrounded by familiar faces. Staff from both mPower and Visiting Health have been working with Pullen on his continued recovery. He believes the process works well, and enjoys the familiarity of it. “I was used to working with them at the hospital, then I moved down with the same people at Water’s Edge,” he says warmly.

Autumn Moretty Randall, R.N., director of mPower, believes that familiarity helps in the recovery process. “When the therapist has seen somebody as an inpatient, they get to know them and the family, and vice versa. That familiarity and consistency of care definitely help.”