Published on September 08, 2016

Positive Outlook, Hard Work Helped Gordon Rehab after Strokes

PONTOTOC, Miss.—It’s hard to imagine that less than three years ago Deanne Gordon of Hurricane could barely walk, talk or take care of herself.

She was getting ready for work in October 2013 when something went horribly wrong. “I had the most excruciating headache,” says Gordon, 47, who worked as a benefits and compensation specialist at North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo. “The pain was very severe.”

Gordon called her daughter, Kristen, and told her to call an ambulance and then come over. “I couldn’t walk and my speech was slurred,” she said. “I also have multiple sclerosis. I thought this was being caused by my MS.”

After multiple tests, neurologist Dr. Thomas Oakes discovered that Gordon had suffered back-toback strokes. “The strength on the right side of my body was gone,” she said. “I had trouble with balance. My mouth drooped, and my memory was terrible.”

Gordon began therapy that November at NMMC’s Outpatient Rehabilitation Center, doing physical, occupational and speech therapy three hours a day, three days each week. “I have a family, and I am the breadwinner, plus I am bullheaded anyway,” she said. ”I told them I wanted to go back to work, so my therapy was focused on that.”

Physical therapists helped Gordon improve her strength and balance, and learn to walk again. Occupational therapists helped her relearn activities of daily living, improve her fine motor skills and sharpen her cognitive thinking ability. “At home people had to help me around-the-clock. I had to learn to cook again and how to drive,” she said. “Because I wanted to come back to my job, we worked on counting money and making change.”

While everything was a challenge, speech therapy proved to be the most difficult. “It was so frustrating because math had always been my strong suit,” she said. “We focused a lot on memorization and working math problems. I read stories aloud, and I learned how to use a computer again.”

Gordon’s therapists also taught her family how to help her continue practicing at home. “They taught them the exercises I needed to do and showed my son and daughter some things they could help me with on the computer,” she said.

In late April 2014, Gordon returned to work part-time. She had completed physical and occupational therapy, but continued speech therapy awhile longer, focusing on skills she used at work. “I was calculating people’s pay, so I needed to make sure it was right,” she said. “My speech therapist, Brigitta Walker, taught me that the brain will reroute itself and grow.” After a month, she was able to resume working full-time.

In April 2016, Gordon was offered the opportunity to transfer as office supervisor for NMMC’s Outpatient Rehabilitation Center. “I have been blessed all the way around,” she said. “Everyone here was so compassionate and encouraging.”

In her new role, Gordon can show others what having a positive outlook and working hard in therapy can do. “A lot of people think that doing repetitive therapy is childish,” she said, “but it’s all dependent on what you make up your mind to do.”

NMMC is promoting the National Rehabilitation Awareness Celebration, Sept. 18-24, with the theme, “Miracles Start with Caring Hearts.” The rehabilitation staff is also promoting its Second Time Around program that donates new and used durable medical equipment to patients who may not have the funds to purchase needed items. Anyone wishing to donate items such as electric wheelchairs, shower chairs, walkers, canes, or crutches may call (662) 377-4058 or 1-800-THE DESK (1-800-843-3375).

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