While challenging, stroke doesn’t mean the end of hope
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Mackie Johnson

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After a patient has suffered a stroke, a major concern for doctors is when to let them start driving again. Stroke survivors want to get back to driving, and returning to independence after a stroke is important — but safety is more so.

“The driving rehabilitation program at Penrose is excellent,” stroke survivor Mackie Johnson said.  “They took time with me, and drove around with me, and made sure my eyes were able to focus on the right things.”

As a result of experiencing a cerebellar stroke, a stroke in the lower part of the brain at the brain stem, at age 64, Johnson’s body movement, eye movement, balance, and fine motor skills were significantly impacted and he was consequently unable to drive for some time.

“For nearly the whole first year after my stroke I couldn’t do anything the way I wanted to do it,” he said.  “Thanks to rehabilitation, I’m a lot better now, but some things are still difficult.  Like playing the guitar. I get stuck on the strumming patterns.”

Johnson was referred to Penrose-St. Francis’ Fitness to Drive outpatient rehabilitation program to help him regain his driving freedom.

Fitness to Drive helps stroke and other patients develop or improve their current driving capacities.  Balancing freedom and independence with safety, occupational therapists, who are driving rehabilitation specialists, provide clinical evaluation, behind the wheel evaluation, adaptive equipment prescription and training in skills that are essential to driving.

Once the patient has passed a comprehensive driving evaluation, which assesses vision, cognition and motor control, a written report is sent to the referring physician, who can then determine a patient’s capacity to resume driving.

“For anyone recovering from a stroke, having this support helps a lot,” Johnson said.  “It makes all the difference.”

Each stroke patient is different, but returning them to their peak level of function and independence is the focus of the rehabilitation program at Penrose-St. Francis.  Penrose-St. Francis Health Services provides 24/7 advanced stroke treatment and was named a certified Advanced Primary Stroke Center by The Joint Commission. Penrose-St. Francis is part of Centura Health, the region’s leading healthcare network.

“Stroke patients need to know, having a stroke is not the end of hope,” Johnson said.  “Somethings might take a little longer to do, sometimes you get tired and you need to rest.  After you rested a little, go back and try again.  It’s important to stay positive.”


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