Aurora BayCare Medical Center was the first healthcare facility in the area to be certified as a Comprehensive Stroke Center. They’re now celebrating their five-year milestone anniversary of that achievement.

Local 3 was recently allowed inside a stroke recovery physical therapy session at Aurora BayCare; so we were there to witness a remarkable achievement – a true testament to the comprehensive stroke recovery work being done there.

With one last step over an obstacle in his path, stroke survivor Rob Ossmann from Krakow graduated from the physical therapy portion of his stroke recovery program.

“He was able to do the whole entire session without taking any rest breaks,” explained Melissa Thompson, a physical therapist with Aurora BayCare. “He was working really hard, no loss of balance. So from a physical standpoint, he’s doing quite well.”

Not yet 50 years old, Ossmann suffered a stroke last February.  His wife, Holli, didn’t know it was a stroke at the time; just that Rob was restless in his sleep, and when she woke him at 3 am, she knew something wasn’t right.

“The speech was not making sense,” she recalled. “That was my first indicator that something was wrong.”

Ossmann was exhibiting one of the signs of a stroke described in the “BE FAST” acronym, which stands for – balance, eyes, face, arms, speech, terrible headache, and time to call 911. (For more info about the BE FAST acronym, click this link.)

Fortunately, the Ossmann’s were able to get Rob to the area’s first Certified Comprehensive Stroke Center at Aurora BayCare.  This certification means the center meets the rigorous standards for treating the most complex stroke cases.

“It’s different with every patient depending on what part of the brain the stroke impacts,” said Emma Jacobs, Aurora BayCare speech therapist.

Ossmann survived his stroke but needed 24/7 supervised care at home.  He could not work, drive or enjoy his favorite hunting and fishing pastimes. His family support, especially from his wife Holli, never wavered.

“She basically had to put everything on hold,” Ossmann said.

Holli admits trying to balance work and family while caring for her husband’s medical needs was a challenge.

“It was strenuous,” she acknowledged. “It was a lot.”

Like many stroke survivors, Ossmann’s recovery came in different places at different times.  While his physical strength and balance came back rather quickly, his speech and language took longer to return.

“Yeah, that’s what it is,” Ossmann agreed. “I can do everything, I just can’t talk that well.”

Speech therapist Emma Jacobs says it’s a frustration shared by many stroke survivors, whose intellect hasn’t been affected, just their ability to find the right words.

“You want to say something but you don’t know how to say it,” Ossmann explained.

It’s also difficult for a partner, who’s been used to sharing each day with her husband for more than two decades.

“It is rough because he and I talked about everything together before all this,” Holli explained. “We always shared our stories and events.”

The Ossmann’s say they think the roughest part is behind them now. They say they couldn’t have done it without all the support of family, friends, and the stroke care team at Aurora BayCare.  Not only is Rob back to work full time, but he’s also even managed to get back to what really makes life worth living.

“Being with my sons outside,” he said.  “Went turkey hunting three weeks ago. Shot a nice tom.” 

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