Meet Tom: After a Stroke He Uncovered His Inner Strength

Thomas (Tom) Terry of North Andover, MA spent days in an induced coma following a stroke that impacted the right side of his brain. He was uncertain of his future. At Northeast Rehabilitation Hospital in Salem he uncovered his inner strength.

When Tom arrived in Salem he wasn’t walking, couldn’t move his left arm or leg and required a feeding tube. He was unable to see or understand things that were on his left side and as a result couldn’t read or write. The stroke had also affected his speech and he had difficulty with his cognitive or thinking skills. Tom struggled with knowing how to use simple objects and this prevented him from doing everyday activities such as using a fork to feed himself or putting on a shirt.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way – especially with dedicated rehabilitation

“A lot of emotions come with having a stroke. I couldn’t walk or do anything for myself,” reflected Tom. “I remember thinking, I will never walk again.”

His remarkable progress required commitment, perseverance and hard work. Tom benefited from three hours of therapy a day, five days a week. This included speech, physical and occupational therapy. Sometimes he asked to participate in more.

“I had my moments,” said Tom. “It’s so tempting to lay there. Then your mind gets going. But I thought about my goals. I wanted to walk again. So you will yourself to do it. Then you go.”

Tom’s multidisciplinary care team gathered every day and held weekly team meetings to help him achieve his goals and work towards his discharge plan. His hard work resulted in almost daily victories. “Tom was highly motivated and hardworking every step of the way,” said Cathy Tracy, Physical Therapist, PT, DPT. “Any goals I set for the day or the week he not only met, but surpassed and exceeded all expectations.”

“I learned a lot about myself,” Tom reflected. “The progress is so invigorating and everyone has been so compassionate. The therapists and the aids, you can see it in their tears when you accomplish something. I couldn’t do anything for myself. I put everyone through so much and they never showed frustration. Everyone is so knowledgeable.”

The therapy team had fun planning an outing to Tripoli for Tom. “Seeing everything Tom had worked so hard to accomplish come together at Tripoli was heartwarming,” said Kathleen Hodge, Speech Language Pathologist, MS, CCC-SLP.  “He navigated the busy store, ordered pizza with clear speech, ate pizza and drank root beer without any difficulty. His motivation and positive attitude have been an important part of his recovery and progress.”

Moving forward and returning home

“Tom exceeded all of our expectations and made amazing progress. His optimism, smile and positive attitude have been contagious and inspirational for all of us and even the other patients,” said Mikaela O’Neil, Occupational Therapist, OTR/L.

The entire team agreed, “We all feel so honored to have been part of Tom’s journey and look forward to seeing him continue to progress and accomplish all of his goals.”

His fiancé Barbara has also been by his side every step of the way, “The fact that he’s almost whole is amazing.” Tom added, “I’m thankful for Barbara and every last person at Northeast Rehabilitation Hospital Network.”

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