Stroke Awareness Month: Rita’s Story

May is Stroke Awareness Month. We will be introducing you to stroke survivors and their stories. Today, meet Rita.

Rita O’Connell knows firsthand the life-changing effects of stroke. Rita came to Magee as a patient after she had a stroke in February that affected her ability to walk, dress herself, speak clearly, and eat and drink. The beginning of rehab was a very emotional and overwhelming time. She was no longer able to do simple everyday tasks independently. Throughout her six-week stay at Magee, Rita worked hard in physical, occupational, speech, and recreational therapies to target her physical, communication, and nutritional goals. Rita also participated in art therapy where she brought energy and a positive attitude to every challenge she faced, big or small. Despite feeling as if she didn’t have much experience with art making, Rita was more than happy to give art a try. If nothing else, she thought it would be a great way to work on her fine motor skills. The creative process helped her work toward that goal, and it also provided her an opportunity to tell her story in a meaningful way.

Rita’s artwork depicting her progress throughout six weeks in rehab

In art therapy, Rita created a visual timeline of her six weeks as an inpatient at Magee and the immense progress she made each week. By the time she was discharged from Magee, Rita was able to walk with assistance, get herself ready in the morning, and eat her favorite foods again! Rita wants to share this artwork with others, especially patients, to prove just how much progress can be made in rehabilitation. Rita asked that this work be hung in our 4th floor therapy gym, where much of that progress occurred, to serve as inspiration for others going through a similar experience. On Tuesday, May 2, Rita was joined by her therapy team as her artwork was unveiled in the gym to be viewed and enjoyed by all.

To learn more about the Stroke Program at Magee, click here.

Photo: Rita with her therapy team at her artwork unveiling in the 4th floor gym. Left to right: Art Therapist Julie Nolan, Rita O’Connell, Physical Therapist Erin Kelly, Speech Therapist Ashley Owens, Occupational Therapist Cassidy Kemp

Co-authors: Ashley Owens, MS, CCC-SLP and Julie Nolan, MA

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