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Patient Stories: Greer Tavel

Greer Tavel at an Advisory Council Meeting.

As a personal motivation coach, Greer Tavel dedicated her life to helping people achieve their dreams. However, in April 2003, a massive stroke forced her to apply her strategies in a very real way to her own rehabilitation journey.

While getting ready for bed, Greer suddenly felt her left knee give out. A call to 911 led to admittance into the Evergreen Hospital Emergency Department, where she spent the next week in acute care as the medical staff worked to stabilize her condition. Once this was achieved, Greer's doctor referred her to the University of Washington Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit, telling her that it had one of the best stroke rehabilitation programs in the U.S. Greer accepted his suggestion and moved to the rehabilitation unit for a stay that would last nearly three months.

At first, Greer was very depressed. She was completely paralyzed on the left side of her body, she had lost all sense of balance, she no longer had a functioning bladder, she couldn't eat or swallow, and her family was three thousand miles away. She felt alone and helpless, and didn't want to do anything for herself.

It was her nurse who forced Greer to start shifting her perspective. After two weeks of feeling despondent, Greer found herself confronted by the new nurse assigned to her case. Greer admits, “[She] began to quote to me from my latest Newsletter. I told her…I was thinking of people who had limiting thoughts, not… physical disability.”

The nurse asked Greer, “What's the difference?” and left. Upon her return, the nurse began to break down Greer's resistance by having her list tasks that Greer felt were impossible, and then helping her accomplish each one. By the end of the day, Greer began to feel hope.

That interaction with her nurse set the tone for Greer's inpatient stay. Committed to treating the whole person, Greer's rehab team connected with her on a personal level. Her therapies were tailored not just to her physical needs and abilities, but also to her mental and emotional ones. The team knew how to relate to Greer to get the needed results. “Some days they pushed me to the point where I was totally uncomfortable and ready to kill them!” Greer jokes.

Even as she came closer to leaving the rehabilitation unit, Greer's team continued to encourage her in the skills needed to make the transition: to think ahead, to do things for herself, to manage her life as self-sufficiently as possible. When Greer was ready to return home, she took the advice of her rehab team, who encouraged her to enter an assisted living facility where she could be more independent.

Now, Greer returns at least three times a week for outpatient therapy, and is active on the Rehabilitation Patient Advisory Council. As predicted at the beginning of her therapy by her physiatrist, Dr. Kathy Bell, she is living in her own apartment and has her own car. No longer dependent on a walker, she currently uses a cane and is firmly dedicated to her goal of walking without any assistive device. Whenever she attempts something she believes she won't be able to do, she remembers her nurse's words: "'Can't' is not on your website."

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