Mar 20, 2018
Recovery after stroke
Animal advocate chooses Siskin Hospital for therapy
Julia Anderson knew she was having a stroke – she was falling against walls and having trouble with her speech – but she felt she had to keep her appointment to pick up some rescue cats in Georgia. She didn’t think she had time to go to the hospital. She drove all the way back to her Missionary Ridge home, put the cats up, hid her symptoms from her live-in elderly mother, ate supper, and went to bed. The next morning at McKamey Animal Center, she struggled to fill out the forms. On the way home, she stopped to get gas and remembers having a very hard time with the pump. She finally told her mother that she’d had a stroke, but not to call 911 until she did a load of laundry and took a shower.*
The ambulance took her directly to Erlanger’s Stroke Center.
“I was in really bad shape in the hospital,” she says, “and desperately trying to find someone to take care of the 20 cats in my garage.” Friends who visited her would go out to their cars and cry.
She chose Siskin Hospital for her physical rehabilitation, and though her therapy went well, she found her progress frustratingly slow. During this time, she realized she would have to “let go or be dragged,” and decided to adapt to her new reality. After nearly six weeks as an inpatient, she continued six months in Siskin Hospital’s Outpatient Therapy Services.
“Siskin Hospital helped me realize that anything is possible,” she says. “My therapists would never say I couldn’t do something. They encouraged me to keep trying.”
And try she did. Today this self-reliant and strong-willed lady is walking and driving independently and still rescuing animals, though her left arm remains paralyzed.
“I’m too vain for a cane,” she says. “I do everything with one arm and my teeth.”
Julia also joined Siskin Hospital’s Health & Fitness Center so she could do pool work several times a week. When she first came to the Hydro Therapy Prescription group class, she could hardly shuffle through the doors. Now she tries to do 44 walking laps in the pool, the equivalent of one mile. Her instructor says Julia has made significant improvement in her balance, gait and arm mobility since she started the class.
“Julia’s left shoulder was practically frozen when she first came in,” says Margee Lee, PTA. ”After consistent passive stretching in the pool, the range of motion in her arm has steadily improved.”
An avid animal advocate since childhood, Julia rescued more than 250 cats and 50 dogs in 2016. The McKamey Animal Center honored her the following March with its Humanitarian Award for her selfless service to animal welfare and protection in the Chattanooga area. Julia credits this consuming passion for much of her recovery.
“The best way to overcome obstacles in your life is to find something really worthwhile to focus on,” says Julia. “You have to stop thinking exclusively about yourself. I actually think I’m a nicer person since I had the stroke!”
* Julia does not recommend this course of action to others.
Learn more about Siskin Hospital's Stroke Program
Julia's story appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of Spirit, the Siskin Hospital magazine. Read more inspirational stories in back issues of Spirit: