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Safe at home

Rehab helps Williston woman recover after stroke
Helen Millette undergoes rehabilitation after stroke.
Helen Millette undergoes rehabilitation with Dr. Douglas Eggert, rehabilitation specialist, at Sanford Health.
  Helen Millette took part in an unexpected form of therapy during her three-week stay at Sanford Health’s inpatient rehabilitation unit. “I bowled,” the Williston resident said. “In my day, I had been a fairly good bowler. Bowling with my right arm, I did fairly well. Trying to do it with my left—not so much—but it was a fun, different thing to do.”

While she didn’t actually pick up a bowling ball and roll it down the lane, Millette did bowl using a Nintendo Wii video game console. It was one of the numerous methods therapists used while working with Millette, who turned her extensive rehabilitation at Sanford Health into a trip back home.

On Dec. 17, 2010, Millette suffered a stroke, and, after treatment in an intensive care unit, she moved into a Williston nursing home. Fiercely independent, Millette didn’t want to spend the rest of her days under the care of
someone else.

“I thought: ‘Wow. What am I doing lying in a nursing home?’” she said.

Even with her desire to return home, she couldn’t move the left side of her body, so that wasn’t an option. After a few weeks of occupational and physical therapy at the nursing home, though, she was strong enough to move into an inpatient rehabilitation facility.

Her children visited multiple facilities, and they decided Sanford Health was the place for Millette.

In inpatient rehabilitation facilities such as Sanford Health’s, patients must participate in three hours of therapy a day, five days a week. The goal of the intense therapy program is to get strong enough to return home. By living in the facility, a patient receives a broad range of coordinated therapies and care from nurses specially trained in rehabilitation.

“You have a complete team effort,” said Dr. Douglas Eggert, Sanford Health rehabilitation specialist. “You have everyone communicating with one another, and, with the skilled nurses, the patients’ rehab doesn’t end when they leave the occupational and physical therapy gyms.”

  Dr. Douglas Eggert
Eggert, MD


When Millette arrived at Sanford Health, she couldn’t move her left arm or walk. She needed the highest level of assistance.

During her stay, she participated in occupational, physical and speech therapy, and, the more time she spent in the rehab facility, the more progress she made.

“In the course of the OT, my left arm and hand totally came back. I have full use of my left hand. It was paralyzed,” Millette said. “That was exciting while I was there—starting to see my fingers move. I think the PT and OT gals had a little competition to see who could make the most progress, and that was good.”

Along with the rehab using the Wii, Millette experienced other innovative treatments. In Easy Street, Sanford Health’s simulated community that allows therapists to help patients learn in real-life situations, she baked cookies in the kitchen and, in the bedroom, practiced getting in and out of bed and chairs.

Those real-life situations paid off when Millette left Sanford Health and returned home. After her three weeks of inpatient rehabilitation, she only needed minimal assistance.

“That whole Easy Street experience for me was great,” she said. “It was more than just an exercise room. The whole surroundings were geared to what I needed.”

Millette has regained her mobility and only requires a walker or cane to help move around. She sometimes needs help getting dressed, but the fact that she’s living with her husband in their one-level Williston home is a major triumph.

“I was very independent to start with,” she said. “Being able to move around in my own house and stand at my sink is priceless.”

Click here for more information on Sanford Rehabilitation Center or call (701) 323-6021.


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