Shine Forward for Melissa Kirby
Organized by: Jennifer Sawant
August 2017 Update
August 20, 2017
EVENT DATE Jul 30, 2016
On April 8, 2014, Melissa was jogging early one evening when she suddenly collapsed and suffered from multiple brain stem strokes that left her without the ability to move or speak. Only 42 years old, Melissa was a healthy and vibrant wife and mother of two young children, and an active member of her community. She loved yoga and exercise, volunteering at her children's school, working as a partner at Shine Creative and being with her family.
Despite this devastating event that changed the trajectory of Melissa and her family's life, her spirit still shines through. Melissa has full cognitive function; however, she must now relearn how to move and talk again - the most laborious task of her life.
In June 2014, Melissa transitioned from the John Hopkins Medical Center Brain Recovery Unit in Baltimore, MD to a nearby skilled nursing facility where she receives intensive speech, physical and occupational therapy six days/week. Melissa's husband, Matt, and their children, Colette, 12, and Kingston, 8, cope the best they can in the interim; but miss her at home beyond what we can fathom. It has been two years since their mom has been home. While Melissa continues to receive medical care in a skilled setting, expenses incur beyond the traditional medical care such as rehabilitation therapy, transportation, and adaptive equipment.
Recovery for this type of rare and catastrophic stroke is a slow and gradual process, but not impossible! Studies in neuroplasticity show that the brain can create new pathways of development and there are many success stories out there to prove it, but like many forms of exercise and therapy, it is only effective if you use it. Unfortunately, health insurance does not provide continual and expansive coverage for this type of rehabilitation therapy. When the brain loses neural connections after a stroke, it can be hard to rewire; but Melissa’s progress across her therapies show that it’s working!
Melissa is showing strides in speech therapy, focused on the dynamics of speaking and swallowing. Although she receives nutrients and liquids through a gastric tube, slowly increasing the intake of her mom's homemade organic smoothies is a start to her feeding goals. While she can produce the occasional soft "no", "yea", and "hi", she still has a lot of work to do with regaining the sound of her voice. While she works towards the sound, her voice is heard by communicating with an alphabet chart.
Physical and occupational therapy is mainly focused on trunk control and core strengthening. Her right arm is active in showing movements. Her left side is starting to come around by showing some activity. The electricity is there--toes, ankle, leg, thigh, hip, shoulder, arm, wrist, hand, fingers connecting--and the slight movements are growing as the energy syncopates and works at catching up to the right side.
The endurance of sitting up, standing and shifting weight, is tapping into all of Melissa's yoga and core training experience. In physical therapy, Melissa gets on her feet daily with support. Early on she would be nervous and tentative, now she is much stronger and more assured. She has also been able to step forward with her right leg (with support!). She will get there. Her spirit is bright, her memory intact, her personality and wit ever-present throughout.
Even under the most challenging odds, stroke survivors can make remarkable, unexpected recoveries with the help of rehabilitative therapies. Melissa’s rehabilitation will require in excess of $100,000/year for the ongoing progressive therapy she will need beyond the ‘standard recovery time’ deemed by the insurance plan. Please consider donating to help continue Melissa’s rehabilitation therapy on her road to recovery as she inches closer to returning home to her family.
Any donation is appreciated beyond what words can express. On behalf of Melissa and her family, THANK YOU. We are eternally grateful for your generous donations, soulful prayers, thoughtful words of well wishes, positive thoughts and energy. Together, we will SHINE FORWARD for Melissa!
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