Andy was a runner as a younger woman. She ran the mile in track & field. But what really got her going was live music. “My first concert was Phil Collins and Genesis,” Andy explains, with a little help from her daughter, Chrissy. “My most recent was Jackyl, but that might be too hard for your tastes,” Andy laughs.
Her days of dancing to rock-n-roll nearly came to an end when Andy had five simultaneous Bilateral Cerebellar Strokes (meaning strokes affecting both sides of the brain) on February 16, 2019. “Thankfully, there was a doctor and her husband Ike in the grocery store where it happened,” explained Chrissy. “She may not have made it otherwise.” Andy was placed in a medically-induced coma for a few days and then spent a total of 26 days in the ICU. Andy’s husband Ike, her three sisters, and her three children took shifts at the hospital. Chrissy worked during the day at a local restaurant and went to the hospital to sleep on the couch next to her mom at night.
When she woke up from the coma, Andy couldn’t open her eyes or even talk. Chrissy had to lift up her mom’s eyelids for months before Andy could use her own hands to open her eyes. The doctors said she’d never stand or walk again.
“The swear words were the first words to come out ok,” Chrissy remembers with a smile, “and then we were able to bring her home for a few weekends.”
They had a lot to learn about caring for Andy though. The first time they brought her home, moving her from the car to the house was quite an endeavor. “We finally had to put Mom on a tarp and had four people grab the handles.” That only hardened Chrissy’s resolve that it was possible to get her mother home full time: “it was gonna happen.”
After rehab stints at Reading Rehab and Manor Care, Andy was finally ready to come home from the hospital, to Chrissy’s house, in October. That was a full eight months after the stroke. “I was doing so much research while she was in the hospital and actually found IM ABLE early but put it aside. For a long time, I wasn’t able to relax but the first time I actually got to sit down for dinner with Mom, we were set to eat dinner and the TV had a segment on you. I’ll never forget that day. Before the next commercial break, I was emailing:
I am interested in talking to someone about getting my mother involved with this group. I just saw it in the news and cried because I never thought there would be something out there like this to get her involved with people and fitness. My mother is 58 and suffered a severe stroke that affect her congenitally and neurologically. She has been is rehab for the past 22 months. I excited to hear from someone. – Chrissy
“And then we started crying,” said Chrissy. “It was her next step. It’s been close to a year and a half since we sent that email.”
The IM ABLE Foundation’s Adaptive Personal Training Program is directed by Johanna “Jo” Rice. Jo is certified in Adaptive Fitness and will complete her Masters Level Occupational Therapy Program in the fall of 2022.
“Insurance frequently cuts people off once they get back to a very basic level of ability and functioning following a life-changing episode like a stroke or an amputation,” explains Jo. “People come to IM ABLE because they’re not satisfied with the bare minimum. They want to exceed to higher levels of functioning and hit goals they never thought possible. They want to run again, race again, ride again. Quality of life is everything. Through our one-on-one or small group training sessions, we evaluate where people are right now, where they want to be, and then we decide on how we are getting there and put the plan into action.”
People come to IM ABLE to work on building muscle strength, cardiovascular endurance, balance, and flexibility, all of which aid in mobility, preventing falls, enabling access, and so much more. We believe in fostering a “can do” attitude that helps our clients achieve things that they never thought to be physically possible, or possible again after a medical episode. The emphasis on mindset is what sets IM ABLE’s adaptive training programs apart from the rest, because with the right mindset, we firmly believe that you can achieve anything.
Over 18 months, despite seven surgeries on her eyes, five on her throat, and one on her Achilles Tendon requiring nine various boots, braces, shoes, rods that left her leg black and blue, Andy’s stamina improved. “Jo was the best person to put her with,” beamed Chrissy. “She’s young, patient, personable, and really pushes her out of her comfort zone. She knows fitness, of course, but she goes far beyond the gym. We had to renovate our whole house. Jo helped us find resources to help with it. We had to redo floors, knock down walls, add custom doors, accessible bathrooms, and completely redo the garage so she can now live in there.”
“I saw people who had it better than Mom and I was asking for advice,” said Chrissy. “Now, I see people who have it worse and I share what I’ve learned. Johanna also arranged for Mom to give back some by volunteering as a ‘guinea pig’ over at Alvernia University, giving the PT students real-life experience of treating a stroke survivor.”
Andy can walk again, with the help of a walker. The first time she did, Chrissy recorded it and sent it to her Andy’s sisters. They were crying for an hour straight.
“Andy is hilarious,” says Johanna. “She keeps hitting her goals, so we make new ones.”
One of Andy’s friends asked her to be in her wedding.” Andy’s response: “why would you want me to be in your wedding? I can’t even walk.” Andy and Chrissy brought this new challenge to Johanna who took it head on. “We got her a special pair of shoes and went right outside the gym to get her up on her feet. She got up out of her wheelchair and worked on walking until she was ready.”
This inspired Andy to renew her own vows, but only if she could walk down the aisle. She brought that idea to Jo and they worked hard, until Andy and her husband, Ike, did exactly that on May 14, 2022.
“When Mom was in the hospital, we didn’t want to take pictures,” said Chrissy. “We didn’t want to remember her like that. But we took a few and now we use them to show her how far she’s come. Without you, we don’t know where we’d be. We’d be going nowhere. We wouldn’t have the goals. We’d have nowhere to go. And here’s Jo, with a smile on her face asking us about our next goal.”
Our generous donors and volunteers made this possible and we can’t thank them enough.