Stroke Patient Story

Ron Wagner, 54, was teaching an electronics course on February 22, 2006 when he felt a sudden tiredness come over him. “In ten years I had never had to stop teaching in the middle of a class,” Ron says. “I went home and went to bed. When I woke up, I had a stroke.”

Ron's wife, Marty, recalls, “I was downstairs watching television, and I heard a noise from upstairs. I found Ron on the floor. He couldn't move the left side of his body and his speech was barely intelligible.”

After a ten day stay in an acute care hospital, Ron's doctor recommended that he go to Brooks for his rehabilitation. The Wagners arrived at Brooks Rehabilitation Hospital on a Friday and treatment began right away.

“Since we arrived on a Friday, I thought there wasn't any chance of anything happening until the next week. I quickly found out I was wrong,” Marty remembers. “Ron's wheelchair was waiting for him in his room, so we immediately had mobility and could get outside for fresh air. We also met with Ron's doctor on Saturday and began to plan his treatment.”

“Brooks was such a calm place for me, which was exactly what I needed at the time,” Ron says. “From the nurse teams to the doctors, everyone was so cheerful and ready to help me in any way they could. The whole team was made up of fun people who had a passion for their jobs.”

When he was first admitted to Brooks, Ron was confined to laying flat on his bed. He had no control over the left side of his body and could hardly speak. He also lacked any sense of center or balance and couldn't maintain a sitting position. One of the first goals was to have Ron sit up straight in a chair.

In addition to participating in sessions of a variety of therapies—including cognitive, physical, occupational and speech—Ron and Marty went to a Stroke support group in the afternoons following therapy. “Ron was always tired after a full day of therapy, as were all the other stroke patients, but the group was a great place for support and education for both of us,” Marty says.

“My stay at Brooks was also important because Marty and I celebrated our 27th anniversary there,” Ron says. “We had china brought in and had lasagna and sparkling grape juice for dinner."

After discharge from Brooks Rehabilitation Hospital, Ron went to outpatient therapy for six months at our Orange Park and Health Care Plaza clinics. During this time, Ron had the opportunity to participate in a National Institute of Health-funded stroke research project at the Brooks Center for Rehabilitation Studies, in collaboration with the University of Florida.

Through the work he did in inpatient and outpatient therapy, as well as the independent exercise program, Ron progressed from being completely immobile on his bed to being able to get up out of his bed and walk independently.

“We have a timeshare down in the keys where we have always enjoyed to go kayaking,” Ron says. “Getting back in that kayak was very important to me.”

“First, Ron learned how to swim again,” Marty says. “After that, we practiced getting into the kayak in the pool. It was a bit of a puzzle, but we figured it out together. The first time we took the kayak out on the water was very emotional for both of us. It was incredible to see how far Ron had come. It used to be a trick just to get him to turn over on a bed, and now we are able to do the activities that we loved again.”

“Brooks gave me my life back,” Ron says. “I can't say enough nice things about them. I never met a person at Brooks that I didn't like.”