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Published on February 01, 2019

Jeanette Warkenthien

Rehab Team Helps Stroke Patient Get Back to Living Well

Jeanette Warkenthien’s to-do list is filled with her abundant passions. She loves fishing – especially on the Missouri River, she’s a church secretary, keeps books for several businesses in and around her hometown of Clark, S.D. and she and her husband, Glen, enjoy taking cruises each winter.

She’s an “overcomer,” so that’s how she has approached her recovery after suffering a stroke in August 2018. Her recovery included working hard in the pool and making every step count during her stay in the inpatient rehabilitation center at Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center.

“Because of the severity of my stroke, some of the indicators said an acute rehab program might not be a good fit for me,” said Warkenthien. “I have a lot of things I want to do yet, and I wanted to get better and beat the statistics.”

Based on data, studies and similar conditions, Warkenthien’s stroke may have made time in an acute rehabilitation center less ideal. But her care team led her to success in her outcomes. But she played an important role, too, working hard with all those who provided her help in recovering function.

“Jeanette is indeed exceeding expectations,” said Adil Shaikh, MD with Avera Medical Group Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. “She went beyond the anticipated outcomes, and her progress shows how carefully tailored care can really make the difference in recovery.”

What’s the Matter, Grandma?

It was Aug. 21, 2018 when Warkenthien felt like her asthma and a cold were making her weak. She went to a clinic and received a prescription. That afternoon, when her grandchildren were over, she felt funny and stood up to go get her nebulizer, as another asthma attack seemed to loom.

“I stood up and fell right down. My grandchildren asked me what was wrong and what they could do. I told them I needed to get back into my chair,” she said. “It was quite a circus of pushing and pulling, and then they said ‘There! We did it!’ once I was sitting down.”

When her left arm and leg became immobile and numb, her family took her to the emergency department at Avera McKennan.

A Night of Tests

Warkenthien learned that she’d suffered a stroke, and spent about a week in the hospital. Her care team helped her get her asthma controlled. As she considered options with her family, her children felt inpatient rehab in Sioux Falls was the best possible choice.

While they had many reasons, the unit’s impressive suite of services and staff were among the most important. Avera McKennan’s rehab program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), with an additional stroke subspecialty accreditation, which meant a lot to the family.

With her own private room, one of the unit’s 24, Warkenthien had plenty of space for Glen and her family when they visited, along with a private bathroom, heated floors and a large roll-in shower. She enjoyed the views from her floor-to-ceiling windows when she wasn’t working carefully, and with gusto, in the unit’s 5,200-square-foot therapy gym. She also took part in aqua therapy at the in-house Johnson Aquatic Center.

Specialized technology, including an overhead track and harness system called Solo-Step, helped to keep her safe from falls. She would get help from therapists while increasing mobility and strength on the unit’s AlterG Bionic Leg™ machine, as well as a wide range of more traditional rehabilitation and strength-building machines and devices.

Busy Days With Progress

With her team’s help and thorough attention to detail, Warkenthien made headway, even if it was at times frustrating. She had, at the outset, hopes of a short stay.

“I kept telling my toes to move, to wiggle, and they wouldn’t listen to me,” Warkenthien said. “I was sure I was only going to be in the hospital a short time. But I had to accept that wasn’t how it was going to go.”

Instead, she was going to have plenty of hard work in order to get back to her life in Clark. She wasn’t shy about the work.

“There are more challenges for patients who suffer strokes, like Jeanette. We provided the team’s expertise, dedication and proper approaches, and she provided the hard work. That combination helped her overcome obstacles,” said Shaikh. “She really thrived, and it was our team’s honor – and skill – that contributed to the success.”

There were literally miles to go before Warkenthien would be ready to go home. Yet with her daily plan on a white board in her room, she felt empowered – there was the plan in place, before her each day.

“All the therapists – everyone on the team – were nice and helped me see the bigger picture. They seemed genuinely invested in seeing me be able to do things,” she said. “They had a passion to help. I have a lot of living left to do.”

With her family’s support, her medical team, and her rehab team’s sincere concern for her, Warkenthien added the fortitude, and it’s paying off.

“I’m going to overcome this,” she said. “It’s still challenging but I’m getting better, every day.”

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