Patrick Meyer considered himself a healthy 24-year-old. Then one night while in his bedroom, out of nowhere, he had a seizure. “I remember lying on my bedroom floor, pounding my fist on the hardwood, hoping that my roommate downstairs would hear me and come help.” Thanks to quick responses by friends and emergency medical professionals, Pat was life-flighted to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh, where he had brain surgery to stop the bleeding and remove a blood clot. Pat’s family learned that his seizure was due to a brain hemorrhage; he had a condition called arteriovenous malformation, or AVM, of the brain. AVM is an abnormal connection between veins and arteries, and most people never have symptoms. A weakened area of the AVM can start to bleed, which is what happened to Patrick.
After surgery, Pat was placed in a drug-induced coma to allow the brain to start healing. When he woke from the coma, he could recognize his parents, his brother and his girlfriend, but the brain hemorrhage left him paralyzed on the entire left side of his body. When it was time for rehabilitation, doctors at UPMC recommended HealthSouth Nittany Valley Rehabilitation Hospital in Pleasant Gap, where Pat stayed for five weeks as an inpatient. “I remember waking up in a HealthSouth patient room, with my left arm stuck in a flexed/bent position,” says Pat. I was confused, I had no short-term memory, and I could not move my entire left side, including my face.”
At HealthSouth, he started physical, occupational and speech therapy – up to three hours a day. While Pat does not remember his first day of therapy, he can tell the story, thanks to his family who looked on as he began his rehabilitation. “On my first day, I was in a wheelchair, and my neck was too weak to hold up my head. My physical therapist bent down and whispered something in my ear. Then he put a gait belt on me, lifted me up and walked me around the therapy gym. I wish that I had a video of what we looked like that day. What a great reminder that would be, of how far I have come.”
Walking in physical therapy is one of Pat’s best memories of his rehabilitation at HealthSouth. “I was in a wheelchair for so long; walking around the gym with the physical therapists gave me a mission,” Pat explains. “I went from a walker to a four-point cane, and then to a single point cane. Physical therapists also worked with me so that I could climb stairs again.”
In occupational therapy, Pat worked with his hands, practicing regular activities of daily living, which is an important part of a patient’s readiness to go home. Pat adds, “The nurses also seemed to know just how to work with me and my brain injury."
After five weeks as a HealthSouth inpatient, Pat was discharged, graduating to outpatient therapy. Holly Montarsi, certified occupational therapy assistant, describes Pat’s progress: “When Pat came to us in Outpatient Therapy, he was walking with a cane. Therapists focused on neuromuscular re-education, balance, coordination and strengthening exercises, as well as speed with walking,” says Montarsi. “Near the end of his treatment, he was racing the therapists around the gym, and walking while carrying and balancing objects in his left hand.”
Throughout Pat’s surgery and rehabilitation, he had the support of many loved ones. His mother, Nancy Meyer of Aaronsburg, reflects on their experience: “Pat received first-rate care as an inpatient and an outpatient at HealthSouth Nittany Valley. I don’t know how we would have made it through this traumatic time without the support and kindness of the entire staff.”
Pat sums up his feelings about the experience: “I kind of love HealthSouth, because being here, I knew I was going to heal. This place, and the people, gave me the chance to take the next step, literally, and get back to a ‘new normal.’”