In Dec. 2006, 53-year-old Dawsonville resident Annie Dean Samples tried in vain to convince her husband, Charles Samples, that there was no cause for alarm even though her mouth was drooping. He knew then she was having a stroke.
“I insisted that I was fine. I didn’t feel any different,” said Samples. “He called 9-1-1 anyway.”
Fortunately, Charles Samples listened to his gut, because his wife was indeed experiencing a stroke. By the time she reached the emergency room, she had lost all movement on her left side. Doctors confirmed the ischemic stroke, which is caused by a blood clot, through a CT scan. Samples had arrived at the emergency room in time to receive TPA, a blood clot busting drug that can dramatically improve stroke symptoms, but because she started to regain some movement in her left side, she and her doctors decided not to use it.
Today, she is back to her extremely active lifestyle. She and her husband have a jewelry designing business in Dawsonville — the Rock House — where they design custom jewelry. She also volunteers at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame in Dawsonville, where she serves as president of the organization. She speaks to groups across the county and region raising awareness and funds for the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame.
But her remarkable recovery was no easy task to achieve.
In 2006, Samples was admitted to the hospital and spent a total of 10 days in inpatient care. During that time, she started receiving rehabilitation care to help improve the impairments caused by her stroke.
At the end of her hospital stay, she transferred to the Inpatient Rehabilitation unit at Northeast Georgia Medical Center to continue intensive rehabilitation.
“I was determined to regain as much function as possible,” said Samples. “I wanted to be able to go back to my life as I once knew it.”
When Samples entered Inpatient Rehab at Northeast Georgia Medical Center, she could not walk, had limited movement of her left arm and hand and had some speech problems.
“She was very goal-oriented. She attended every session with her husband. They made quite a team,” said Kevin Gohman, Samples’ physical therapist and now director of Inpatient Rehabilitation at the hospital.
“She was motivated and wanted to be challenged. She couldn’t get enough therapy,” he added.
Samples’ fierce determination contributed greatly to her successful recovery.
“The therapists asked me to develop a goal for myself to work towards while I was there,” she said.
“I told them that when it was time for me to leave, I wanted to be able to walk out without the aid of a wheelchair, walker or cane,” she added.
After two weeks of intensive physical, speech and occupational therapy, Samples did just that. She also thanked the staff who worked diligently with her each day.
“My physical therapist, Kevin, was tough,” she said. “Each day, he came up with new obstacles for me to tackle. He challenged me and was hard on me, but I’m glad he was.”
“Recovering from a stroke can be a very demanding process,” said Gohman.
“The brain must be provided with the proper stimulation that is challenging and often repetitive in order to relearn lost function. Much of Samples’ success relates directly to her high level of motivation and ability to set specific goals for herself,” he added.
At the end of her time in Inpatient Rehab, Samples was pleased with her improvement, but not satisfied.
Samples could walk unassisted, regained a tremendous amount of use in her arm and hand and only had minor speech problems.
“Everything was better, but still not where I wanted it to be,” she said.
While Samples had some outpatient therapy options closer to her home, she said she wanted to, “Do whatever was necessary to be sure I got the very best therapy available.”
She decided to enter Northeast Georgia Medical Center’s ReGain program, an outpatient rehabilitation program that specializes in treating patients with neurological disorders and other acute medical conditions.
Samples received three hours of therapy, three days a week at ReGain, participating in physical, occupational and speech therapy.
“The one hour round trip commute to Gainesville plus three hours of therapy made for a long day, but it was worth it,” she said. “I didn’t want to just be better; I wanted to be back 100 percent, and the therapists and staff wanted that for me, too.”
Samples was working hard at ReGain and making great progress when she had an interruption — she experienced atrial and ventricular fibrillation in her heart and had to have a dual chamber pacemaker implanted.
“That took me away for a few weeks, but as soon as I recovered, I was right back at it,” said Samples.
After four weeks, Samples was released from speech therapy before she finished her physical and occupational therapy.
“They were impressed with my improved speech, but I still needed help with getting up and down out of an armless chair and needed more work with hand-eye coordination,” she said.
After several more weeks, Samples conquered these tasks as well and was finished with her therapy at ReGain.
While she’s back enjoying her life as she knew it before, Samples said she’s not able to sustain the long hours she once kept.
“Now I’m only able to go from about 6 a.m. to midnight each day instead of quitting at 2 or 3 a.m. like I used to,” she said.
Samples attributed her success to the doctors, therapists and staff of Inpatient Rehab and ReGain.
“It is so fulfilling to be able to be back running around like I once was. It’s the best therapy I can think of,” she said.
“I can’t thank them enough for all they did for me. They gave me back a chance at life,” she said.
For more information about Stroke Care at Northeast Georgia Medical Center, call (770) 533-8200.