JACKSON, Miss.—When Linda Lewis arrived at work one January morning last year, she complained to her co-workers of a splitting headache throbbing at the top of her head. It was a headache that wouldn’t go away for days.
“The next Tuesday, I almost blacked out in the shower, it hurt so bad,” the Clinton resident recalled.
After treatment at a local hospital, Lewis learned she had a cerebral aneurysm and would need rehabilitation to reclaim her life.
She came to Methodist Rehabilitation Center in Jackson where she first went through physical rehabilitation. After several weeks she began outpatient therapy at the hospital’s east campus just off Lakeland Drive where her physician enrolled her in MRC’s Quest program which teaches brain injured patients how to re-integrate into society.
Aneurysms are caused by a weakness in the wall of a cerebral artery and can affect the brain in much the same way as a stroke, said Dr. Rahul Vohra, MRC medical director. “Aneurysms decrease blood flow to the brain and are commonly fatal.”
Feeling sharp headaches and experiencing nausea are both common symptoms of an aneurysm rupture. They occur more commonly in older adults and slightly more often in women than men.
Victims of aneurysms face many of the same deficits as stroke patients including the physical ones, Dr. Vohra added. That’s where rehabilitation at MRC became important for Lewis.
Lewis said regaining her independence was her priority. “I just hated that I couldn’t do things for myself when I was hurt.”
In the Quest program, Lewis interacted with other brain injury, stroke and aneurysm patients as therapists helped them learn how to handle real-world everyday tasks like shopping, typing and cooking.
It’s important to set goals for a positive recovery, said Dr. Mark Sherer, director of neuropsychology and the Quest program at MRC.
“Our goal with Quest is to improve the quality of life and increase the independence of those who have sustained a brain injury, stroke or other neurological problem,” he said. “We focus on those skills that an individual will need the most to be able to go back to the home, school or office.”
“Linda had some weakness and some memory deficits, but overall she had a remarkable recovery,” said occupational therapist Charlene Toney, who was Lewis’ primary therapist. “She had been active before the injury and she was motivated to get back to work. We did a series of clerical work simulations to test her message taking, proofreading and calculating. She did everything we asked her to and had a great attitude.”
Lewis said she was determined to do whatever she had to to get her life back. “They had me working on a computer and filing papers in cabinets to get used to doing it again. They made me learn how to work and be independent again.”
Stroke and aneurysm patients typically face an 18-month recovery period, Dr. Vohra said. Lewis graduated from the Quest program in September 2000, nine months after her aneurysm.
Today, she is back at work full time in the career counseling office at Jackson State University. “I still have a hard time expressing myself sometimes and I get a little mixed up every so often, but I’m doing fine.”