Rehabilitation Therapy Helps Patient Navigate Effects of Stroke

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When a stroke happens, getting the right care at the right place at the right time is important. For those who subsequently experience challenges in movement, speech and daily living, stroke rehabilitation therapy can restore independence and hope.

Working in shipping and receiving at Claiborne Medical Center, Monty Layman had made countless deliveries to Covenant Health Therapy Center – Tazewell. He never imagined that one day he would be among the patients desperately needing the therapy center’s care.

“I was in a wheelchair. I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t talk,” he says.

Sudden Stroke Changes Patient’s Life

Layman‘s stroke was part of a perfect storm that changed his life forever. His wife was out of town visiting extended family. He doesn’t remember collapsing in the shower that morning in October 2022, but he remembers realizing he was lying in the tub with water up to his jaw after it happened.

“The tub was filling up because I was blocking the drain,” Layman says. “I was just barely keeping my mouth and nose out of the water so I wouldn’t drown.” Unable to move his right arm or right leg, Layman used his left side to maneuver himself into a position where he could shut off the spigot.

Meanwhile, his boss was concerned when Layman failed to show up for work.

“I was never late. I was always early – I usually beat him there by half an hour – and he knew something was wrong,” Layman says.

When there was no response to a phone call or a personal visit, Layman’s boss kept trying to check on his employee until a message could get to Layman’s stepdaughters in Harrogate, who had a key to the home.

It’s estimated that he remained alone in his home for three and a half hours, just outside the time window of opportunity for clot-busting medication that might have stopped the stroke effects in their tracks. The next thing Layman remembers is regaining consciousness at Claiborne Medical Center. Claiborne Medical Center is accredited as an acute stroke-ready facility, and is a member of Covenant Health’s stroke hospital network.

“I woke up once and I saw my boss. Everybody that knew me surrounded me,” Layman says. “That’s all I remember.”

He was airlifted to the Comprehensive Stroke Center at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center in Knoxville, where he was treated and then remained in Intensive Care Unit for about a week. He was transferred to Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center, which was then located at Fort Sanders Regional, for his initial post-stroke therapy, but still had severe limitations when he returned home to Tazewell.

Stroke Rehabilitation Therapy Rebuilds Quality of Life

Multi-Therapy Approach Supports Overall Recovery

Layman began occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy at Covenant Health Therapy Center – Tazewell in November 2022. Stephen Duncan-Morin, senior occupational therapist, noted that patients can benefit from the different therapies.

Stephen Duncan-Morin, senior occupational therapist at Covenant Health Therapy Center-Tazewell, works on coordination skills with Monty Layman during Layman’s recovery after experiencing a stroke.

“There is that complement of the different disciplines at the same time,” Duncan-Morin says. “How well you might do with walking doesn’t necessarily correlate to how well you’re going to do with dressing.”

Functional tasks like getting dressed are Duncan-Morin’s specialty as he helps patients rehabilitate in a way that gives them independence to function in everyday life. Simple tasks like putting on or taking off a shirt can seem like monumental challenges for a stroke patient.

“You’re looking at balance, and you’re looking at strength and fine motor coordination – the cognitive component and the visual perceptual component,”  Duncan-Morin says.

He evaluates a stroke patient’s range of motion, strength and coordination in the areas of the body that are affected. Combined with first-rate physical therapy and speech therapy, Covenant Health Therapy Center – Tazewell had the the tools and knowledge that helped Layman get back on his feet.

“It is a team because they all do something different, but they’re all working toward the same goal,” says Layman’s wife, Deborah.. “Even though it’s a different body part that they’re working on, it’s still that circle of care.”

She says the therapy center’s efforts to promote a positive attitude also make a difference. Duncan-Morin explains that the approach goes deeper than just being cheerleaders for patients. “There’s a different level in terms of really putting the patient first here,” he says.

Returning to “Life After Stroke”

While Layman still faces some limitations today, his gains far outpace his losses. He can walk; he carries a cane only as a precaution, and he can carry on a conversation to tell the story of his survival.

“I understand that you can’t go back,” says Layman. Now that his rehabilitation work at Covenant Health Therapy Center – Tazewell has ended, he’s facing forward and moving on.

That includes achieving an important goal – mowing the yard with his zero-turn mower. Initially, a special device was recommended to lock the mower into a single direction, but Layman wouldn’t hear of it.

“I just said, ‘no way.’ I wanted the freedom of turning the thing around.”

Freedom is what it all comes down to for Layman. Freedom to move, freedom to speak his mind and freedom to enjoy quality of life  — no matter what twists and turns lie ahead.

For information about stroke symptoms and stroke care at Claiborne Medical Center and Covenant Health’s stroke hospital network, visit our stroke web page.

Stroke is a medical emergency. Rapid treatment saves lives, protects brain cells, and minimizes disabling effects of stroke. If you or a loved one experience symptoms of stroke, call 911 immediately.

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Covenant Health

Headquartered in Knoxville, Tennessee, Covenant Health is a community-owned, healthcare enterprise committed to providing the right care at the right time and place. Covenant Health is the area’s largest employer and has more than 11,000 compassionate caregivers, expert clinicians, and dedicated employees and volunteers.

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