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Woman determined to beat stroke trades wheelchair for cane

Every Wednesday morning, she’d pick up her grandkids, take them to school and stick around for the day as a volunteer at her granddaughter’s school. For Valentine’s Day, she organized crafts to entertain the students and give the teachers a break. She didn’t get to see the finished products on Valentine’s Day, though. Instead, she was in the hospital.

On February 10, Lois Haan tripped on her kitchen rug. Her husband, Bob, rushed into the room and helped her onto a chair. She couldn’t move her right leg.

Bob hurried her to the emergency room. The doctors told her she’d sprained her ankle. Bob noticed Lois’s words slurring and was skeptical of the doctors’ diagnosis. The doctors weren’t concerned, and Lois was sent home with a recommendation to use a walker.

The next day, Lois took a nap in her La-Z-Boy chair and awoke to a horrifying realization.

“When I woke up, my whole right side was gone,” Lois said.

She couldn’t move her right arm or leg and she could feel her right eye drooping. Bob quickly called their daughter and son-in-law over and they carried Lois to the car. Again, the Haans dashed to the emergency room. This time, the doctors determined she’d had a stroke. To Lois’s surprise, they discovered that she had multiple small strokes that led to the severe one.

“It was just hard for me to believe,” said Lois, “But, I had this attitude that I was going to beat it.”

Her doctors urged her to go to Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital for therapy. Lois was eager to recover and wanted to get as much help as possible. She was encouraged by something her nurse said in the hospital.

“You know, Lois, you have such a positive attitude — I know you’re going to bounce back.”

On February 15, Lois began her inpatient stay with Mary Free Bed’s Stroke Program.

She had wonderful support from her family and friends. The first week in the hospital, her two children took work off to spend time with her. One of her children spent every night with her.

Bob was always by Lois’s side.

“Lois,” he said to her after her stroke, “It doesn’t make any difference. If you don’t get any better — if this is how you are — we’ll take care of it. If you get better, then, good! If not, we’ll have a good life.”

Occasionally, when he became overwhelmed with worry for Lois, he’d have to step into the hall to regain control. He soon busied himself with renovations for Lois’s return home. He replaced their king-sized bed with two twin mattresses that could elevate and recline like the hospital bed Lois loved. He built her a walk-in shower with a nice bathtub, because she’s always preferred baths to showers.

One day, as Lois’s daughter was wheeling her down the halls, she suggested that Lois could learn to operate her wheelchair better. Lois, determined to fully recover, had a different plan.

“Nope!” she said. “I’m going to walk out of here!”

Two weeks after checking into Mary Free Bed, Lois exchanged her wheelchair for a walker and strolled out the doors. Now, Lois uses a cane that her father carved.

Lois stays active. She and Bob still go to concerts together, including a Pink Floyd show last June. She does daily exercises at home and enjoys going shopping and going out to eat with her daughter.

“And we like to go to the casino,” Lois adds with a laugh.

She was excited to start driver’s rehabilitation in August so she could return to full independence.

Lois proudly tells people she had a stroke. She loves seeing the reactions — most are shocked that she’s recovered so quickly. Crediting the prayers of many and the professionals at Mary Free Bed, Lois improved at a remarkable rate, and she won’t stop until she’s fully recovered.

“I want to be 100 percent,” Lois said. “I’m not giving up. I want to keep going.”


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