After experiencing a brain aneurysm and devastating stroke, Cathy Lucas wasn’t expected to survive. But with the care and support from the experts at the MetroHealth, Rehabilitation Institute, Cathy continues to thrive and inspire those around her.
In fall of 2020, Cathy and Paul Lucas moved to a new house, planning for the next phase of their life. What they didn’t plan was a stop-you-in-your-tracks health crisis. Just four weeks after the move, Cathy had a brain aneurysm and suffered a stroke.
She was rushed to the hospital where surgeons removed a large portion of her skull to stop the bleeding in her brain. She was unconscious and placed on a ventilator. She wasn’t expected to survive.
Cathy did survive, though the road ahead would be difficult. When it came time to find an acute rehab facility, Paul petitioned for Cathy to be transferred to MetroHealth.
“The research I did showed that if not the best, it was one of the best in Ohio,” he says.
Cathy was transferred to the MetroHealth Rehabilitation Institute. She had regained consciousness and was off the ventilator. But she couldn’t swallow and had a tracheostomy and feeding tube. She could follow basic commands but wasn’t talking or able to move her left arm or left leg.
“Within the first two to three days, watching the team work, I knew it was where Cathy needed to be,” Paul shares.
One of the people on Cathy’s team was Amy Lengyel, an inpatient physical therapist. She saw Cathy’s baseline condition: not being able to sit up on her own or hold her head up — completely dependent on others.
They got to work, celebrating the little victories along the way — like when Cathy was able to stand up for the first time. “Amy let me give Cathy a hug — the first real hug since her aneurysm,” Paul recalls.
Cathy’s first steps were made possible by a walker and four therapists. But in time, when she took Cathy down the hall for walks, her physical therapist, Amy, allowed Paul to hold his wife’s hand.
By the time she was discharged, Cathy could walk with a cane and minimal help. She could also move her left arm. She could talk, though barely above a whisper. But it was clear, she had progressed more than they had imagined.
In January 2021, Cathy started outpatient therapy at MetroHealth. Mary Harley, an occupational therapist, worked with her. By then, Cathy had mastered basic activities of daily living like being able to get dressed by herself. And with supervision, Cathy was able to assist in the kitchen, do light housework, and take care of Earl, their 165 lb. Great Dane.
Today, Cathy cooks more meals on her own and regularly tackles laundry and other duties around the house. In the spring, Cathy finished up her participation in a clinical trial at the MetroHealth Rehabilitation Institute that included an extra six months of physical and occupational therapies for her left arm and hand. But that hasn’t been the end of her improvement.
She walks nearly every day, even on rainy days so she can get in at least 10,000 steps. She’s been fishing with Paul and has even caught a few. She can hook and unhook a necklace given to her by one of her sons, with the fitting Bible verse of Psalm 46:5 stamped on it: “God is within her, she will not fall.”
In September, Cathy gave a short speech before an annual brain aneurysm awareness 5K/1 Mile walk, then walked with her team, By God’s Grace. She raised more than $4,500.
One big goal remains for Cathy.
“I’ve been backing the car out of the garage and driving down the driveway, turning around and pulling the car back in the garage for practice,” she says. “I only scared Paul a couple of times. Ha!”
Cathy will return to MetroHealth in November to see if she’s ready for the Driver Rehabilitation Program.