CLEVELAND, Ohio – Imagine losing the ability to perform simple, everyday tasks: taking a shower, chopping vegetables, driving your car.
Every forty seconds someone in the United States has a stroke, causing them to lose many of those functions.
But at a special place in Northeast Ohio, those who suffered are getting those skills and their independence back.
Kamia Conwell is one of them.
Two years ago, a single mother of a 7-year-old girl was working out at the gym, getting ready for a trip.
She was about to turn 30 and wanted to celebrate.
“All of a sudden I couldn’t breath,” explains Conwell.
“And then I couldn’t talk, so automatically knew I was having a stroke.”
Twenty-nine-years-old and a blood vessel burst in her brain. She woke up strapped to a bed and on a breathing machine.
“All I could do was think about how grateful I was because I was still alive.”
After a month-long hospital stay and another month in inpatient rehab, Kamia was ready for the next step.
“Neuro Day was amazing.”
Neuro Day is a unique and intensive program at the Cleveland Clinic.
Twice a week for 3 months, Kamia spent the entire day at the Clinic’s Outpatient Rehabilitation in Euclid.
Kamia explains, “They teach you how to live, basically. How to get back to your normal self. Well, this is my new self.”
When Kamia first entered the group, she had trouble talking and walking.
She didn’t have full function of her right side.
Neuro Day gave her her life back.
On a recent visit to the outpatient rehab, we met Trish and Ron, Emanuel, Maria and Rick; each of them struggling with their own challenges, whether they were brought on by a stroke or some other neurological disorder.
Ron is focused on the driving simulator.
His goal is to get back behind the wheel and back to work. For now he’s learning to use a steering wheel with a modification.
“My left hand, I don’t have any grip in it yet right now. So it’s easier with the hand control.”
His progress has been astounding.
We watch next as he winds through an obstacle course.
“We’re incorporating different challenges that you’ll encounter in the real world,” explains the therapist.
Patients spend an average of 3 months in the program.
Ron will be finishing up after one.
In the kitchen, the group uses adaptive cutting boards and utensils to relearn those skills.
Trish says, “Yeah, I couldn’t do that at home.”
In speech therapy, this wife and grandmother of four is learning to sound out the words and phrases that are trapped in her brain.
“I’m trying to walk and to talk and f-f-find [sic] my words. And I’m getting better. I’m getting better.”
At Neuro Day patients receive physical, occupational, speech and recreational therapy.
There are social workers, psychologists and nurses.
But it’s the group dynamic that is possibly the strongest medicine.
Trish tells FOX 8, “I love coming here with everybody. Love having my friends. And this helps me. It helps me, being around everybody.”
Program director, Nancy O’Maille says no other hospital in Northeast Ohio offers this type of all-day, intensive service and they’ve been helping patients in this way since 1998.
“Let’s face it, it gives them more hope. And it gives them more hope to see others getting better too.”
Kami Conwell is on the other side of it now.
Last year she returned to work as a nurse and this summer gave birth to a baby boy named CJ.
And because of Neuro Day she can hold him and feed him, walk him in the stroller.
As she puts it, “I’m brand new. Like I got re-birthed…I’m so, I’m ever so grateful.”