by Julie Corponai. Re-posted from Happenings Magazine.
Allied Services prides itself on “miracles in rehab, performed daily.” For John Monahan, the statement could not be more true. A Brooklyn native and retired New York City homicide detective, Monahan suffered a series of three strokes between early December 2011 and late January 2012. While preparing to return home to Scranton from New York, he felt a strange sensation in his hands, then dropped his soda and keys. Luckily, his wife, Marie, Director of Speech Pathology and Audiology at Allied Services, recognized the signs of stroke and rushed him to Lenox Hill Hospital.
The stroke upended every aspect of the Monahans’ life. He lost the use of his hands, could not walk, had difficulty with his visual perception and needed help with nearly everything. “You realize incrementally what you took for granted, how the simplest things become a monumental feat,” says Monahan.
Stroke causes impaired sensation, movement, and intellectual processes and occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted or severely reduced. Within minutes, oxygen and food cannot reach the tissue, and the cells begin to die. According to the American Heart Association, stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, striking nearly 800,000 and causing death for more than 137,000.
Initially, Monahan began his rehab therapy at a renowned facility in New York. “During 20 years of rehab work, I’ve never seen a stroke that severe,” says his wife. However, the Monahans found the protocol less rigorous than what she was accustomed to at Allied, and they made the decision to bring him to Scranton.
She credits the strides he has made to the team of therapists at Allied. While she always appreciated how hard her fellow therapists worked, she never fully realized the depth of their devotion until she saw their work first hand, not just with her husband, but with all of their patients. One of the most severe symptoms Monahan experienced from the stroke is “pusher syndrome,” or an altered perception of body, causing him to feel that he was upright when he was actually severely tilted to the left. Allied therapists used ZeroG, one of the world’s most advanced systems for people relearning how to walk. Wearing a fitted harness, the system allows the patient to balance and stand without having to carry their full weight.
Monahan never experiences any down time in his therapy as his wife pushes him to go further in his recovery. “I always try to think what it would be like to be him, how I am going to help him without driving him insane,” she says. “She’s good at trying new ways to get me to go further and is always insightful in what she says,” says Monahan. Today, he is able to climb stairs to the second floor of their home, help with the cooking and enjoy dinner out at favorite restaurants with friends. An avid fly fisher and hunter before the stroke, he hopes to be able to get back to his pasttime when fishing season opens this year.
Recovery has its ups and downs. “There are days we fell we are at the top of the mountain, but we know there are five million more things to achieve,” she says. Luckily, the couple’s difficult days rarely happen at the same time. They have a running joke that when everything is okay, Monahan will buy his wife a tiara. They are not there yet, but hope to be someday.