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Our Stories: Jaime Anderson

Rebuilding a life after stroke is possible with help from Courage Center and Sister Kenny

Jaime Anderson’s life took a turn she never expected one evening in August 2012. As she got ready to go to her sister’s birthday dinner, Anderson, age 25, had a massive stroke. After three brain surgeries that saved her life, and receiving initial inpatient rehabilitation at Sister Kenny Rehabilitation InstituteUnited Hospital, she was referred to Courage Center to continue her recovery. 

Through hard work at both Sister Kenny and Courage Center, and a can-do attitude, Anderson vows to achieve her goals: to regain her independence and return to work.

Before her stroke, Anderson had moved back to the Twin Cities from New Orleans. She had a new job and an apartment with friends, and wanted more opportunities to spend time with her family. Thanks to a lucky set of circumstances, Anderson’s parents found her just after her stroke. She had fallen on the floor of her apartment and was unable to move.

Doctors at United Hospital in St. Paul told her parents her chance of surviving was poor. But Anderson beat the odds in what her medical team said has been an exceptional recovery following a massive stroke.

Anderson’s rehabilitation therapy experience highlights the series of services—often referred to as  the continuum of care—that clients have access to as they recover. Her rehabilitation began at Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute – United Hospital, part of Allina Health. Then, she was referred to Courage Center for three months of inpatient therapy.

Anderson arrived at Courage Center in a wheelchair, able to walk only a few steps. The stroke had significantly weakened her left side, and she had difficulty processing visual and spatial cues.

She worked hard in physical therapy to strengthen her left leg, then stand and walk. “Learning to walk again, without holding onto anything, was so hard!” Anderson said. “I was very shaky and afraid of falling.”

In occupational therapy she focused on learning to use her left arm again, along with executive functioning skills like planning and problem-solving. “I’d get a list of seven things to do for the day, and I’d have to figure out the order I’d do them. I’d get frustrated! I’d be thinking, ‘I know how to do this!’ My therapist gave me a tip that helped: to talk out loud to myself.”

Before Christmas, Anderson asked her physical therapist for help so that she could participate in a family event at a tree farm. She anticipated that getting herself onto the hay wagon would be difficult. They figured out an approach, and it worked.

Throughout her therapy at Courage Center, “My therapists would help me find a way. It might be a different way than I’d done before, but I learned there is still a way to do it,” Anderson said.

Today, Anderson lives with her family and continues her outpatient therapy at Courage Center. She appreciates that the therapy she received from Sister Kenny is coordinated with her Courage Center therapy and overseen by her Sister Kenny physician. 

Her current phase of rehabilitation includes participating in Courage Center’s Community Reintegration Program, learning with other clients who have brain injuries how to improve her skills to live independently. And, to maximize her physical recovery, she’s begun Activity-Based Locomotor Training (ABLE), Courage Center’s program of individualized, intensive exercise. 

When it comes to her stroke, Anderson isn’t one to spend time wondering, “Why me?” As she explained, “If I felt sorry for myself all the time, I wouldn’t get anything done.”