MedRehab helps 25-year-old stroke survivor get back on the move

Danielle credits MedRehab for getting her back on her feet and on the dance floor.

Danielle Jones, stroke survivor, credits U-M MedRehab with getting her back on her feet and on the dance floor.

The U-M MedRehab program is celebrating 25 years of service. Here, stroke survivor Danielle Jones shares how the program helped her get back on her feet.

At 25 years old I thought I had it all. I was studying for my Master’s degree in Secondary Education, coaching both a dance and high school cheer team, I also danced on a team and worked full time. In December 2010, my life as I knew it, was about to change drastically. I suffered a massive stroke. I was perfectly healthy. My right side was paralyzed and I lost my ability to speak. I spent two months at U-M Hospital, and then I was sent to MedRehab in March 2011.

When I first started at MedRehab, I was nervous and didn’t know what to expect. After a few sessions, being at MedRehab felt like being with family. They knew exactly how to make someone going through something like that feel, even though they themselves had never had a stroke. It was a great experience working with the staff at MedRehab, but it was eye-opening. It was frustrating when I couldn’t do something that I wanted to do, but I just had to stay on track if I wanted to succeed. Every therapy session helped me along the way. Most of my sessions started with occupational therapy (OT), working to get mobility back into my right arm, wrist and hand. This included activities such as picking items up off the tables, tossing balls into different containers, different grip exercises, etc. After OT, I’d spend about an hour working on physical therapy (PT), learning to balance, strengthen my muscles and walk. I would walk first around the building inside and then eventually outside. I also worked on walking up and down stairs and coordination drills. All of these things helped me to trust myself to move without needing assistance.

Physical Therapy also included dance, and a lucky coincidence. When I was a student at Eastern, I attended a hip-hop class being taught by Tim Smola. Years later, Tim was working at MedRehab when I started attending sessions there. He couldn’t believe what had happened. He knew I loved to dance so when I was there he helped me incorporate dance moves into the physical exercises I was already doing. He would also play music and try to make things fun for me. (I think other patients enjoyed the music too.)

I also worked on speech therapy with Michelle, starting with the basics of the alphabet, naming what was written on note cards, and working on math problems. It was a struggle at first because I knew what I wanted to say, but something else would come out. I had to slow down, learn how to pronounce things. She really made me feel comfortable. Before I knew it, we were having full conversations.

Overall, my experience with MedRehab has made me want to reach out to others who have had a stroke or a similar medical experience. It can be hard to find someone to talk to when you go through an experience like this, so I want to help others share their stories as well.

I also want to send a SPECIAL THANK YOU to Andy Herner, Pam Vanburen, Erin Spiral, Rachel Lott, Sandy Dodge, Doug Bevilacqua, Dr. Rowan and every other person on the staff that has helped me to get where I am now.

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UMHEALTHFor more than 160 years, the University of Michigan Health System has been a national leader in advanced patient care, innovative research to improve human health and comprehensive education of physicians and medical scientists. The three U-M hospitals have been recognized numerous times for excellence in patient care, including national rankings in 25 specialty areas by U.S. News & World Report.