The Road to Recovery through Skilled Care

Tony HoekstraLife is looking a lot brighter today for Tony Hoekstra than it did on Feb. 17, 2014.

In the wee hours of the morning on Feb. 17, Hoekstra suffered a serious stroke at home in his bed. The quick reactions of his wife, Wilma, and son, Greg, led to an ambulance ride to Pella Regional Health Center’s Emergency Department.

The verdict after a series of tests: a narrowing of the artery led to the stroke but the good news was no bleeding.

Strokes are always a serious business. In America, strokes are the fourth leading cause of death and a leading cause of adult disability. A stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery (a blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the body) or a blood vessel breaks, interrupting blood flow to an area of the brain.

“I don’t remember a thing until I woke up in this room,” said Hoekstra. "After being transported to the emergency department, Hoekstra was moved the Medical/Surgical floor of the hospital where he remained for three days. Then he was moved to the Skilled Care unit at Pella Regional where he first began regaining his memory.

“We didn’t even think about moving him to another facility,” said Jeffy Schuring, one of Hoekstra’s daughters. “People here were very, very good and very helpful.”

A series of therapists – occupational, physical and speech – began working with Hoekstra to help him regain his ability to walk, write and speak again.

“I’m from the old school,” said Hoekstra. “I have to work all the time. There were three of them who worked with me. They had a purpose – to get me to walk better.”

Within a few days, the therapists began to see progress. From Day 1 where Hoekstra was unable to speak, couldn’t move his right side hand or foot and suffered from memory loss, Tony is now moving easily with the assistance of a walker. He tells the story of his recovery clearly and easily remembers to tell his children what needs done around the house.

“I knew from our life together that he wouldn’t give up,” said Wilma, Tony’s wife. “He had an amazing response to therapy. I knew he was going to get better. The day he called me ‘Wilma’, I danced.”

“The quick reaction and response of those around Tony made a significant difference in his outcomes,” said Internal Medicine physician, Dr. Doug Kanis.

Few Americans know the signs of stroke. Learning them – and acting FAST when they occur – could save your life or the life of a loved one. 

Use the FAST test to recognize and respond to the signs of stroke.

F = FACE Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?

A = ARMS Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S = SPEECH Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Does the speech sound slurred or strange?

T = TIME If you observe any of these signs (independently or together), call 911 immediately.

For Hoekstra, the fast action of family and the care from doctors and therapists at Pella Regional have gone a long way to help his recovery.

“I liked their thoroughness,” said Wilma as she recalled the therapists’ work. “The group was unified in what they did. Everyone had a special role to play in what was happening, and I felt that was for Tony’s benefit.”

“The young girls harassed me,” said Tony as he smiled. “Then they did it some more.”

And now Tony is walking, talking and home with family again.