Dean's Story

Dean Eying, sitting in a wheelchair, surrounded by his family.

Dean Eyring, 60, from Litchfield, Ohio had returned home after putting in a day’s work as a crane operator. When Dean tried to open the dishwasher and realized he couldn’t lift his arm, his wife, Venita, immediately knew that her husband was having a stroke.

Venita immediately called 911. Dean was rushed by ambulance to University Hospital Elyria Medical Center, where he was given a tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) injection. The clot-busting drug is given within hours of a stroke’s onset to help dissolve the clots that cause many strokes. It can also reduce the amount of brain damage that can occur during a stroke.

The severity of Dean’s stroke meant he needed more specialized care and was flown by Life Flight helicopter to University Hospital Main Campus. After he was stabilized, the damage caused by the stroke became clear. Dean, an active husband, father and grandfather who enjoyed fishing, hiking and doing projects around the house, was experiencing paralysis on his left side, impaired balance, decreased strength and challenges with his speech and swallowing. He was also struggling with visual processing issues on his left side – his brain was having difficulty processing what he was seeing on his left side.

As a next step in recovery, Dean’s doctors recommended intensive inpatient rehabilitation hospital. Dean’s family opted for a nationally ranked rehabilitation hospital – Cleveland Clinic Rehabilitation Hospital, Avon. It was located nearby and offered an excellent stroke rehabilitation program.

Upon admission, Dean’s goals were clear: become more independent in walking, eating and talking. His physician-led team of nurses and physical, occupational, speech and recreation therapists devised a care plan to help him return to doing the things he loved.

Physical therapists focused on helping Dean learn to walk again. To accomplish this, they utilized an overhead harness to support his body weight while Dean used a special walker that supported his forearms while walking. His physical therapy sessions included exercises like standing squats in the parallel bars, marching with weights on his ankles to build leg strength and hip strengthening exercises while standing which improved his balance. Over time, Dean progressed from being unable to walk independently to walking with a rolling walker and a brace on his left leg.

Dean’s occupational therapy sessions focused on improving Dean’s independence with his personal care, including showering, using the bathroom and getting dressed. Therapists helped Dean increase his sitting and standing balance by having him stand at a raised tabletop with support on his left hand while reaching across his body using his right hand. He also stood to toss a beanbag in order to work on balance and letting go of things with his left hand with more coordination and control. To address Dean’s left visual neglect, therapists focused on education about hemi-dressing techniques -- when a person dresses their weak side first and undresses their weak side last. Therapists helped Dean regain strength and coordination in his left arm and hand through practicing grasping and releasing objects, picking up coins, placing and retrieving clothespins onto a dowel rod and placing rings onto targets at different levels.

Because Dean’s stroke impacted his swallowing, he was initially placed on a pureed/thickened liquid diet. Speech therapists provided eating strategies including taking small bites and sips, eating slowly and sweeping his mouth to ensure that no food remained there, particularly on the left side. With practice, Dean was slowly able to eat thicker foods and eventually progressing to a normal diet.

Speech therapy also worked with Dean to improve his memory, attention and problem solving skills by completing exercises focused on repetition and word/photo association. Additionally, therapists utilized card games and word arrangement activities to target word finding and left-sided attention. To help Dean’s functional problem solving and working memory, he was given complex scheduling worksheets and map tasks where he needed to recall certain criteria in order to complete the activity.

Recreation therapists incorporated some of Dean’s interests, such as fishing, into therapy sessions. Therapists guided Dean in casting a fishing pole and practiced putt putt golf to help improve his hand-eye coordination.

Dean experienced a brief setback when he had to leave rehab due to a brain bleed nine days after he arrived. He returned to Cleveland Clinic Rehabilitation Hospital, Avon three days later and resumed his therapy with the same focus.

Dean had a pivotal recovery moment the first time he successfully walked without a device and only the assistance of his physical therapist. He had high praise for his team, stating, “It’s been amazing. The therapists really pushed me, and there were always new challenges in therapy that kept it interesting."

Dean also credits the love and support of his family and his faith in Jesus Christ in playing a role in his recovery. “They have been an incredible support system. They encouraged me, kept me company, brought me food and cheered me on.” Dean’s wife and granddaughters also participated in care partner training which prepared them to his needs once he returned home.

After 50 days at Cleveland Clinic Rehabilitation Hospital, Avon, Dean was ready to go home. He was looking forward to sleeping in his own bed and enjoying his “desert island” meal, his wife’s spaghetti. He plans to continue his recovery with outpatient therapy to build on the progress he has already made.

Dean offers the following advice for others who may find themselves in his position: “Work hard every day. When you think you can’t – you can. If you have the will, they will show you the way.”

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