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Piedmont Stroke Program provides evidence-based, 24/7 patient care

“When a patient first has a stroke, they are very overwhelmed,” says Nicole Pokalsky, PT, Stroke Program manager at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital. Pokalsky says patients often wonder if they will be able to return home after a stroke, if they will need additional therapy and if their life will ever go back to normal. Some may be in denial that they had a stroke. That’s where stroke recovery comes in.

For optimal results, Pokalsky recommends that stroke patients seek treatment at a primary stroke center, like the one at Piedmont Atlanta.  A primary stroke center uses evidence-based, best practice standards from the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association.

Piedmont’s stroke team is made up of dedicated physicians and nurses who provide 24/7 care to stroke patients. “Stroke treatment complements stroke recovery in that if you receive the best treatment, your likelihood of stroke recovery is optimized,” says Pokalsky.

The challenges of recovery

“When somebody has a stroke, they are grieving a loss,” she says. “They’re having to relearn movements that were once automatic. That can be challenging.” Relearning movements and they once took for granted can be a trying process because it takes time, patience and optimism, Pokalsky explains.

In addition to regaining basic functioning, stroke patients may also struggle with disuse if one side of the body is weaker, a common effect of stroke. “Human nature is that we take the path of least resistance,” she says.

“A stroke patient can actually have learned disuse,” Pokalsky explains. “Therapy really needs to focus on normalizing their movement. You don’t want them to compensate, you want them to maximize their recovery by relearning those movements that were once automatic.”

The stroke recovery team

Stroke recovery involves several types of therapy, including:

  • Physical therapy, which improves mobility.
  • Occupational therapy, which focuses on activities of daily living.
  • Speech-language pathology, which addresses the patient’s ability to talk, understand language, process information and, in some cases, swallow.

The stroke program’s team is passionate about helping patients have the best possible outcomes. “I like my job because I have the opportunity to make a difference,” says Pokalsky. “I manage the program from the time the patients come to the emergency room to the time that they are discharged from the hospital, and even on the outpatient therapy side."

She says the program is always striving to improve the patient experience. “If we can improve our program, then that should improve our outcomes, which means the patients should obtain a better level of recovery.”  

For more information, visit Piedmont’s Stroke Program.

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