On January 17, 2017, Shannon Hester of Muncy was home alone. She woke that morning as she normally did but was tired and didn’t feel great.
“After laying down for a few minutes, I stood up to get ready for work, and that is when I knew something was wrong—everything went black,” said Shannon.
When Shannon opened her eyes, she was on the floor and didn’t know what was happening to her. She knew it wasn’t a heart attack, but she couldn’t figure out the intense pain on one side of her body. Shannon couldn’t make it to her phone, so she had to wait until someone came to check on her.
“It was 12 hours later, my step-father came and found me,” recalled Shannon. “Unfortunately, I remember all 12 hours, but I kept talking to my dogs and trying to figure out what my body was telling me.”
Her step-father called 911 and waited for an ambulance to arrive. Since Shannon was conscious and could speak clearly, she was able to answer questions and talk to the emergency medical services team.
“I remember they had me smile—they knew it was a stroke,” said Shannon. Shannon was transported to UPMC Williamsport Regional Medical Center.
When Shannon arrived at the Emergency Department, Donald Dworek, DO, a neurologist, was waiting for her along with her family.
Dr. Dworek told Shannon she suffered a massive middle cerebral artery (MCA) stroke. If not treated immediately, an MCA stroke can result in difficulty speaking, weakness and sensory loss on one side of the body, and vision issues.
“Dr. Dworek was so reassuring and comforting. I believed him when he told me everything would be okay, but I was still processing so much,” said Shannon. “I was only 46—how could I have had a stroke?”
Shannon remembers that a few weeks before her stroke, she noticed a general weakness on the left side of her body, she thought she had pinched a nerve. Just two days before her stroke, she had an unexplained headache that was only on the right side of her head. She didn’t know then what those symptoms meant – or that they would lead to this.
“After the stroke, I couldn’t use the left side of my body,” said Shannon. “I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t lift my arm or hand, and I couldn’t see out of my left eye. Even two years later, I am still realizing how much my life has changed.”
Rehabilitation was the next step in Shannon’s treatment. She was moved to the inpatient rehabilitation at UPMC Williamsport Regional Medical Center, so she could strengthen her left side and learn how to take care of herself again.
“At first I begged them to let me stay in bed,” remembers Shannon. “Even though I didn’t want to do anything, they made me get up every morning, brush my teeth, and get moving. I wouldn’t be walking today without them—especially Darcy.”
Her time in rehabilitation was filled with physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. Jahan Hashem, MD, visited Shannon daily.
“Dr. Hashem would explain in detail what I was going to do that day and how they would help me,” said Shannon. “I remember seeing other patients—even young kids—walk up and down the steps and through the hallway. I thought there was no way I would ever be able to do that.”
Today, Shannon is able to walk on her own, without a cane or a leg brace. She still attends physical therapy weekly at UPMC Muncy and sees Melissa Michaluk, DO. Dr. Michaluk uses botox to treat the spastic and contracting muscles in Shannon’s arm and hand. Shannon also has home health aides that help her with daily household tasks.
“I am getting stronger every day,” said Shannon. “My next goal is to work. I am not sure what I will be doing, but I want to get back to work.”
Shannon credits her progress to the team at the rehabilitation unit—doctors, nurses, therapists, and even the patients. “They showed me how to rebuild my body and gave me the inspiration to get up and get moving. The doctors saved my life and the therapists taught me how to live again.”