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Denise Lieske

What led me to Northfield Hospital & Clinics

Denise Lieske is adjusting. She’s adjusting to life after stroke. It isn’t easy for a 48-year old professional who is used to charging through life full throttle, juggling accounting jobs, family time and community activities. But she’s been asked to slow down, and she knows she must. “I can’t keep the same pace. That’s something I just need to accept,” Denise said. Denise has many challenges. Her stroke last summer, related to an undetected heart defect, has taken a severe toll on her right side. Initially, she could only walk with assistance or a walker and had limited motion and use of her right arm. The loss of her peripheral vision in her right eye is permanent and there are some cognitive deficits to overcome. Yet, there is much to celebrate. Her therapists at Rehabilitation Services Northfield have walked side-by-side with Denise on her journey of recovery. They say she is making remarkable progress. “She is a motivated individual who gives maximum effort to her home program and daily living recommendations,” says Pat Glaess, an Occupational Therapist at Rehabilitation Services. Nine months after her stroke, Denise has recovered most of her fine motor skills and can move her right arm, if she thinks about it. She can now walk on her own, using a white cane for stability and to signal the world that she is visually impaired. She’s back working part-time at her husband’s chiropractic clinic in Lonsdale. But she tires easily. She copes by staying home most evenings. Dave Watkins, a Physical Therapist at Rehabilitation Services, says Denise’s positive attitude plays a huge role in her steady, progressive recovery. “Her sense of humor has taken her a long way in her recovery,” Watkins said. “She has progressed to the point of independence within her own home, and I have to keep looking for new ways to challenge her.”

Where I'm at Now

Denise has new appreciation for how children master developmental steps. She has had to relearn the art of walking, how and when to move the hip, the knee, the heel and the toe. Every movement is so very intentional. “I didn’t know you had to think so hard to walk,” she said. There’s the physical recovery and then there is the emotional. Denise said she went from being ecstatic that she survived her stroke to grieving the loss of so many things she had taken for granted. “I liked being able to be busy,” she said of her former life. “It’s been a real adjustment to accept that I can do what I liked to do.” Her motivation comes from knowing there is a lot of life yet to be lived. And she wants to be a full participant. She doesn’t want to live life at the edge. She wants to be there for her two sons’ weddings and to actively engage with any grandchildren that may appear down the road. She credits her relationship with her therapists for the progress made and for progress yet to be realized. Beyond their clinical skills, they provide motivation and emotional support. “I have a tendency to focus on what I have lost,” Denise said. “But they refocus me on the progress I have made. They are good teachers and positive.”

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