“We were determined to get him back.”
“You are having a stroke!” Doreen exclaimed when she found her husband, Ken, sitting on the side of the bed, face drooping. “I’m calling 911.” On Sunday, May 23, 2021, at 54 years of age, Ken suffered a brain stem stroke caused by undetected atrial fibrillation.
Ken was taken by ambulance to South County Hospital where he spent three days in the ICU and nine days in the Telemetry Unit before being transferred to a local rehabilitation hospital. At one point, doctors told Doreen that the prognosis was grim.
Ken would have to relearn almost every aspect of life he previously took for granted: speech, brushing teeth, buttoning shirts, showering, etc. Ken says, “I couldn’t speak or walk. Learning to swallow was tough. In fact, I have a recording of me trying to talk and I can’t even understand myself.” Doreen says thankfully, “Ken always knew who I was and could remember things like our anniversary.”
“It was the best to finally bring him home,” Doreen said after months of hospitalization. Occupational therapists, speech pathologists, and physical therapists from South County Home Health soon began visiting their home in Charlestown several times a week.
“We were determined to get him back,” says Doreen. She was committed to helping Ken with each exercise and homework assignment South County Home Health recommended. “He had to want it as much as we wanted it for him,” she recalls. It was hours of work and days of slow progress, but it paid off.
Doreen recalls the first time Ken sat on a riding lawn mower just to feel the sunlight. Ken adds it was the simple routines that added up — like getting the mail every day or refilling the bird feeder every other day. “There were an awful lot of tears,” both Ken and Doreen remember. “But, the caregivers at South County Home Health told us exactly what we needed to do. They became our family.”
Today, Ken suffers from a little double vision and lingering weakness in his right hand. He has extended his gym routine from twice a week with a trainer pre-stroke to three times a week with a trainer post-stroke. His remarkable healing is a tribute to his tenacity, to Doreen’s unfailing support, and the quality care he received.
The Valiquettes want others to know: “Listen to your body, and don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”
Caregivers: Melissa Gibson-Krause, OTR/L; Barbara LaMontagne, RN; April McDonald, PT; Sara Vogelpohl, PTA; Julia Nutt, MS CCC-SLP; Heather Weindel, MS, CCC-SLP.