Believe You Can: Shawn’s Story

Shawn Perry is a stroke survivor and recent Magee patient, who is sharing her story this May in honor of National Stroke Awareness Month. A stroke occurs when a clot blocks the blood supply to the brain, or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. According to the National Stroke Association, stroke is the leading cause of adult long-term disability in the United States, and the fifth leading cause of death. Stroke survivors may experience physical, cognitive, communication, and swallowing difficulties. There are known risk factors for stroke – such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking – but a stroke can happen to anyone, at any age, at any time. For Shawn, stroke came at age 45 with no warning signs. I was Shawn’s Speech Therapist at Magee, where she inspired me with her positive, hard-working attitude each day. Shawn exemplifies Magee’s BELIEVE motto, and this is her story.

Amanda Littman: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Shawn Perry: My name is Shawn Perry. I am a wife, a mother, a sister, an aunt, and a cousin. I’m very active in my church ministry, I work with adults with disabilities, and I’m a caring individual. I care for people, and now I have to be cared for.

AL: What brought you to Magee?

SP: On March 6, I had a stroke at my church. It was unexpected – no symptoms, no warning signs or anything. I was helping a young lady, got a little dizzy, and I passed out. Then I was helicoptered to UPenn from Virtua Voorhees, and that’s how I ended up at the hospital on the Stroke Unit. They recommended that I attend inpatient rehab, and Magee was one of the names on the list. I heard so much about you guys, and I thought that Magee would be the best place for me to recover.

AL: Describe what your time at Magee has been like.

SP: It has been phenomenal. Life-changing. For a person who was always taking care of other people, now to have to be cared for – that put me in a very vulnerable place. I felt like I would be a burden on people. But the staff here, from the entrance on up onto the rehab floor, have been absolutely empathetic, understanding, and very supportive. Each staff person made it personable. The therapists, the nursing staff, even the volunteers. They asked me what I needed assistance with, but they didn’t just assume I couldn’t do things; they tried to help me do things on my own. Everyone is pushing you and supporting you. The “believe” motto, that’s absolutely what they stand for at Magee. They represent that 100%.

AL: What kinds of skills did you work on in therapy?

SP: Well in the beginning, it was just being able to stand. There are so many things that you have to think about when you’re standing and walking that we think are so natural. But in Physical Therapy, I had to learn how to walk again, how to relax my arms, how to shift my weight, and stay balanced. In Occupational Therapy, I worked on getting dressed, maneuvering in the bathroom, eating properly, sitting up with the correct posture, and using my phone. And in Speech Therapy, we worked on my working memory, alternating attention, and multi-tasking to keep my brain strong.

AL: What advice would you give to another stroke survivor?

SP: The first piece of advice I would give is to never stop believing in yourself. At times, you may feel like you can’t do this. It may seem hard, but you have to encourage yourself. You have to allow yourself to be vulnerable to receive help. You can’t be so strong that you push everybody away, because we’re here for a reason. That helped me, along with my faith in God, my faith in who I am, and the support from my family. You have to be willing to do the work, and you have to believe you can do it.

For more information on the Stroke Program at Magee, click here

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