Journal entry by Bonnie Prokopowicz

Well, Steven and I had quite an adventure today! At 8:00 AM our transfer team arrived at the hospital. They took care of every single detail, including schlepping our luggage. They wheeled Steve out to a ground ambulance, which took us to the Athens airport. We flew a Lear jet up to Shirley RyAN (those of a certain age might get an ear worm at this point). Well, actually to Midway Airport, where an ambulance was waiting to whisk us to Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, where Steve got a nice welcome and has a "corner office" on the 24th floor. The intake resident who examined him was very encouraging, noting that he felt muscle response even in cases where there was no visible movement. Steve had a good lunch and then looked like he was ready for a nap, at which point I headed home.

Tomorrow Steve will get evaluations from the various teams and they'll make a plan for his therapy, which begins in earnest on Monday. He is ready to work his butt off to get better!
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Journal entry by Steven Lewis

Hi friends,

im making my first journal entry on my own at the end-ish of my first day at Shirley Ryan—a very nice facility! I'm feeling pretty good. Today was mainly about resting up. Mainly watched tv. 

Huge shout out to all the people who helped care for me since my stroke on Friday the 21st, especially my dear friend and colleague Craig Wiegert, who got me to the hospital and stayed with me all day and large parts of most other days, and my beloved brother and sister, Danny and Bonnie, who tag teamed trips to Athens to look after me and help arrange all all my plans.i am also hugely grateful for the fantastic care I got at Piedmont Atehns Hospital. The nurses, patient care technicians, PTs, and OTs were phenomenal, friendly patient, kind and caring. Many thanks also to all my many Athens friends who came to visit me (sometimes several times). It really cheered me up, raised my spirits, and made me feel loved.

To my Chicago area peeps: thanks for your well-wishes an offers to visit. I'd love to see you. My days here will be full of hard work (3 hours of intense therapy each day), but visits are still welcome, as long as you don't mind my being a bit fatigued. Feel free to text me first to find out when would be a good time.  Or just pop by and take your chances. 

In in general my spirits are pretty good, all things considered, and I'm feelin pretty optimistic!

hugs to all!


Journal entry by Steven Lewis

Hi all,

Today was the first day of actual rehab work: 3 consecutive hours of evaluations, first with occupational therapist (OT), where they taught me how to transfer to, e.g., my wheelchair and the shower chair. I even took a shower mostly on my own, wth some help from the OT. I also dressed myself in gym shorts and t-shirt, with a good bit of help from th OT.  Next came the speech and cognition therapist — easy peasy!  I expect only one more session to complete the initial eval tests. Physical therapy (PT) was last, and I can tell that'll be the real "booger bear" to use my friend/trainer Corey's expression.  But I think that's the one where I'll see a lot of progress over the next week or so.  It's just gonna be hard! More later, but now I'm kinda beat!  Again, thanks for all your support!

Journal entry by Steven Lewis

Today was a good day. Probably my best day of PT yet. Good progress on standing and putting weight on my left leg without my knee buckling much. Got good, helpful feedback from the PT guy. And he gave me good exercises to work on in my free time.  Best day yet of OT.  Tough hand exercises, with lots of reps on each one, but I made good, noticeable progress on some movements.  Still a long way to go but things are definitely progressing in the right direction!  Added bonus: my good friend from college, Lisa Earley, spent the afternoon with me. She even brought us Lou Malnatti's individual pan pizzas and a salad. (For my non-Chicago friends, Lou's is among the best of the Chicago-style pizza chains if not the best, so I was in foodie heaven (even though the food at Shirley Ryan has been pretty good).)  Lisa came to a couple of my sessions and seemed to find them interesting.  I had my final speech-and-cognition half-session today, just to finish up some testing odds and ends.  My therapist (a lovely person named Alicia) agreed that I needed no additional therapy in that area. My speech and high-level reasoning skills are just fine!  Ok, that's all for now.   Dinner just arrived!

Journal entry by Bonnie Prokopowicz

I had a nice visit with Steve today, during which I got to watch three therapy sessions: occupational, language/cognitive, and physical. While he breezed through language/cognitive, the other two were HARD WORK! He has graduated from language/cognitive (I guess they have to check, but he is 100% or more in that area), and that time will be redirected to OT and PT. It is amazing how much we take for granted in our ordinary movements, not realizing how much our brain is involved. Steve is having to retrain his brain and as he does his exercises I can see how hard he has to concentrate to make those once-easy movements. He is determined and I am in awe of how hard he is working.

He has greatly enjoyed his visitors; I saw firsthand in Athens how visitors lifted his spirits. So thanks to those who have come and who are planning to do so! 

Journal entry by Steven Lewis

Hi all.  Just a brief entry, because I'm exhausted after a very full day.  I continue making good progress, but still get frustrated by things I can't do.  Walking on the treadmill was a little bit easier today than it was yesterday (my first time on it), but my PT still has to help me a lot.  I got fitted for an ankle–foot orthotic today which should help my gait work a lot, because it will stabilize my left ankle and keep my left foot from dragging.  As my foot control comes back over time, I'll need that less and less, but for now, it'll help a lot as I re-learn to walk. It's supposed to be ready next Tuesday afternoon. My left hand and arm are able to do a lot more than they could when I first checked into Shirley Ryan, but are still quite limited to fairly coarse movements. But given the improvement so far, I remain hopeful that functionality will return. Stay tuned.  A very nice surprise today was that my friend-since-childhood, Ricky Aderman, surprised me with a visit.  He works very close by, and spent a couple hours with me this afternoon.  Really perked me up!  I'm generally an upbeat, cheerful guy, but it's hard to remain positive all the time during this recovery.  All the outpouring of love and friendship from all y'all helps more than you could know!  OK, so not so brief after all.  Typical Steve! 😊 Enough for now.  More in a few days!

Journal entry by Steven Lewis

Second week of rehab started today. First session was group OT focusing on "fine" motor skills. In quotes because it's still pretty coarse. My tasks today were twofold: First I had to grab a plastic peg (about the size of a AA battery) from the table with my bad (left) hand and then move it to a peg board (rubber mat with holes in it) and insert the peg into one of the holes.  I did that for 7 peg, and then had to reverse the process: remove each peg and put it back in the plastic storage bin. After I was done with that task, the next one she gave me was as follows: She dumped a jar of squishy foam earplugs on the table, and I had to use my bad hand to pick one up and place it back in the jar and repeat until each one was back in the jar.  These tasks sound pretty easy, right?  Wrong!  They were soooo hard, but I did them successfully (though not elegantly).

Next session (after lunch) was PT, in which she assessed my balance and walking.  I did the same balance assessment the day after I arrived here and had a score of 5 (out of 50 or so).  Today I scored a 15, which is a definite improvement (for example), today I could bend over from a standing position, pick up an empty Kleenex box from the floor, and then right myself. Last week I couldn't do that.  However, there were plenty of other "simple" balance tasks I couldn't do (e.g., from a standing position, twist my torso and look over my right shoulder without falling onto the padded bench behind me). Until my balance score is above 40 or so (forgot the exact number), I'm considered at high risk of falling if I don't have assistance. My PT thinks the ankle–foot orthotic will be a big help for both balance and walking. I was fitted for that last Friday and am supposed to get it tomorrow afternoon.  The walking part of the assessment today consisted of using a 4-prong cane to walk as far as I could in 6 minutes, with the PT there to coach me on, protect me from falling, and occasionally assist with my bad leg.  I forget the exact distance I went, but it was about 75 feet.  Best part, as far as I'm concerned, is that I could go the full 6 minutes without taking break (i.e., sitting down in my wheelchair).  The second part of the walking assessment was much easier: timing how long it took me to walk 10 meters (same set-up as other walking assessment).  I think she said they clocked me at a whopping 0.1 m/s!  There was no earlier walking assessment, like there was for balance, to compare my progress.  But I feel my walking is slooowly getting better!  Again the orthotic will help me improve my walking faster (or so they keep telling me).  The rest of PT was more walking practice, but I was all harnessed up and suspended from a track in the ceiling, so that I wouldn't fall.  The PT didn't assist me much with this part except at the end when I was visibly pooped!

Final session was more OT, but this time in the hand-and-arm lab on another floor. This OT seemed much more of an expert on hands and arms than the ones I've been working with so far (all of whom I've thought were good).  After that session, I'm hoping I'll get a lot more sessions in the hand-and-arm lab, and I told her so and asked her to advocate for that with my care team.  She seemed to agree.  We'll see, but I'll definitely talk to my attending physician about that tomorrow morning!

A very full day, and I'm exhausted … but not dispirited!

Journal entry by Steven Lewis

Just a brief update tonight, because I'm already in bed.  Today was a good day.  Two productive OT sessions working on my affected arm and hand; my first treadmill PT session with my new ankle–foot orthotic (it'll take some getting used to, but I can tell already it'll help with my walking progress; and the doggie therapy session this evening.  But the best part of all was that my sister, Bonnie, spent much of the day with me!  She even went to all the therapy sessions (except doggies).  For those of you who don't already know, Bonnie is a delight to be around even when not recuperating from a stroke, but having her (and my brother Danny) on my "team" as I go through this "adventure" has been a godsend.  They are both awesome, and I consider myself the luckiest brother in the world!  I also had two additional visitors at lunchtime—my sibling's and my lifelong friend (and next door neighbor growing up), Joan Colen, and my mom's dear friends, Fran and Paul Bulmash.  It was wonderful spending time with them.  A whole bunch of cards came today—from a whole host of people ranging from former students to a former high school teacher and including various friends from all the different parts of my life. I also got a couple of very thoughtful gifts from friends back in Athens.  All this outpouring of love and support does wonders for my spirits!  So my deep gratitude to all my supporters out there for continuing to cheer me on!  Ok, that's it for tonight!  Night, all!

Journal entry by Steven Lewis

Hi friends. A grueling week of rehab came to an end yesterday. Today I have a day off, but am still doing my "homework" exercises.  Some rehab highlights from the last few days: In OT, I practiced showering and dressing myself with as little help as possible and was able to manage most of it on my own (apart from things that involved me standing up, for which I need someone there to make sure I don't fall). In my hand/arm OT, I practiced a variety of hand/arm "fine"-motor skills (again, dot take fine too seriously; still pretty coarse) and even managed to figure out how to tie a shoe (with my right hand doing most of the work, but my left hand also helping out).  In PT it was mainly continuing to work on my walking, in which I am making steady (but slower than I'd like) progress.  On Thursday, the walking practice was all with a 4-prong cane.  I needed a lot of assistance with that in my morning session, but was a lot more independent at it in the afternoon session.  On Friday, it was back to the treadmill, in which I broke my total time record (excluding rest breaks) by two minutes.  My good friends from high school—and college roommates—Michael Brody and Steve Farber came to visit me for a couple hours on Friday afternoon.  That was a lot of fun!  And today, my sister and brother came for overlapping visits—always fun when we're all three together.  Now I'm resting a bit in bed while watching Iron Man 3 on TV.  Well, that's all for now … more in a few days!

Journal entry by Steven Lewis

Hello everyone. I haven't been posting much lately, but I thought I'd update you.  I'm doing well. My walking has improved the most. I'm walking with a straight cane most of the time. In PT I've been practicing walking without my brace, and I've even practiced walking without a cane!  My arm is progressing more slowly. While my hand is nimble, the sensation is still diminished.  And my left arm is stronger, but it's not moving quite right.  It's left me with a knot below my shoulder blade that causes my ribs to ache.  But I have a month and a half to get it right!  Sorry it's such a short update, but my flair for verbosity in these things has waned (which is why I haven't written an update in so long!). Don't know when I'll update again, but if you want to know how I'm doing, just text me.
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Steven’s Story

Site created on September 27, 2018

I'm Steve's sister Bonnie. On the morning of September 21, Steve had an ischemic stroke. Thankfully, his speech and cognition were unaffected, but he has limited movement in his left arm and leg. After a roller-coaster week of figuring out next steps, Steve is heading to Chicago to inpatient rehabilitation at Shirley Ryan Ability Center, formerly Rehab Institute of Chicago -- the #1 facility of its kind in the country! He will also have outpatient care there. 

We are so grateful to Steve's friend Craig for his diligent, loving care. He took Steve to the ER, stayed with him all day Friday and Saturday, and guided Dan when he arrived on Saturday. He continued to provide guidance and help during Dan's and my stays in Athens. And he and his husband Adrian have graciously offered to take care of things at Steve's house as needed while he is in Chicago. And Steve got absolutely fantastic care at Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center; everyone was as nice as could be, with a special shout-out to our social worker Mary, who made countless calls to arrange Steve's inpatient services and transport.

Steve's entire Athens family has been wonderfully loving and supportive. Steve commented today that the many hospital visits have buoyed his spirits tremendously. `We're not surprised that he has a huge fan club, but we're really grateful for it and we know that when he returns to Athens, he will have many helping hands. Friends and family in Chicago are ready to embrace him and help him regain his strength and mobility. We don't know yet how long it will take, but it's clear that Steve is determined and anxious to plunge into his recovery. 

This CaringBridge site will be our primary means of keeping people posted on Steve's progress. When he feels ready, he'll write updates, but for now Dan and I will help him out with that. Steve would like people to feel free to pass along the link to this site to anyone you think might want to know.