Published on May 02, 2022

Therapy provides optimistic future for young stroke survivor

Gina with Speech Language Pathologist Melanie Hagan

Gina Andraschko, Spring Park, was an avid bicyclist, active mother of two and nurse at Children’s Minnesota, but that all changed in August 2020 when she suffered a life-altering stroke at just 44 years of age. The stroke left Gina with overwhelming health complications.

Once right hand dominant, Gina’s upper right side became nearly immobile following the stroke. Equally debilitating was the loss of her ability to communicate (aphasia). She was unable to speak other than making sounds and saying simple words such as ‘hi’ and ‘bye.’ “I could understand most conversations, but I was not able to respond,” Gina explained.

Physical, occupational and speech therapy brings progress

Gina was in the hospital for eight days following her stroke. After being discharged, Gina immediately began seeing the team at Ridgeview Rehab for physical, occupational and speech therapy. She needed physical therapy for her back and shoulder as pain stemming from those areas disrupted sleep and further affected her speech and processing time. Through occupational therapy, Gina learned techniques to reduce the risk of further injuring herself while she was still recovering, such as using adaptive equipment for meal preparation. Gina continues to work with occupational therapy on restoring function in her right arm and hand while strengthening her abilities on her left side.

Gina worked with a team of speech-language pathologists at Ridgeview, including certified brain injury specialist Melanie Hagen, MA, CCC-SLP, CBIS, to relearn the building blocks for speech. First, sounds and three-letter words were reintroduced. Weeks later, Gina was communicating with three to four-word simple sentences and eventually, broken conversation.

The speech team is currently working with Gina on her thought processing speed to be successful at home, and someday, back in the workforce. Hagen shares, “Gina is an exceptional patient and we continue to marvel at her determination and grit. She shows up at every single session with a positive attitude and inspires us with her remarkable motivation.”

Healing, growth and an optimistic future ahead

Today, with the support of the Ridgeview Rehab team, Gina continues to make strides in her communication and physical capabilities. She is even back on her bike—a courageous achievement in her healing progress. “Gently, my rehab team taught me, while challenging me and celebrating my victories like I was their own family,” Gina said. “They care for me as a person, not just as a diagnosis. They truly want to know me and my interests and they incorporate my passions, like pickleball, into my rehab to keep me motivated to return to doing more of what I love.”

Gina hopes to return to a career in health care at some point. She shares, “As a stroke survivor, I would like to combine my experiences, nursing knowledge and my caring nature to write a book—perhaps to help others faced with aphasia or stroke.”

Treatment of an injury, illness or condition often involves much more than medical, surgical and prescription drug intervention. The best outcomes may also require individualized rehabilitation therapies or wellness programming to increase mobility, reduce pain, prevent future injury or improve general well-being. Learn more about the Ridgeview Rehab team and services.