Jean Dervil's story

Jean Dervil

The day started out like most mornings. Jean Dervil, 40, woke up to begin his day at work in information technology. He noticed he was leaning to the left when he sat up in bed. When he tried to stand, his left leg felt heavy, and he slid down to the floor. He called out for his wife, Jade, who called 911.

Jean was taken to Ochsner Medical Center and received a CT and MRI scan. The scans revealed he had a stroke in the right side of his brain. Doctors administered a tPA, a drug used to attempt to restore blood flow to the brain, and he began to regain feeling in his left side. He stayed at Ochsner Medical Center for eight days before being transferred to Ochsner Rehabilitation Hospital to continue his recovery.

Upon arrival, Jean required significant physical assistance to stand and complete activities of daily living. Although he required complete assistance just to move his left leg, he was able to take a few steps during his physical therapy evaluation. Jean stated that was the moment he believed he would be able to walk again – his primary goal.

In occupational therapy, Jean focused on bearing weight on his left arm, starting in a seated position, then progressing to standing. He also focused on utilizing the Bioness H300, an electrical stimulation device, to improve muscle activation on his weak side. Because the strength in Jean’s arm was slow to return, his occupational therapy team spent a lot of time educating Jean on proper positioning, range of motion exercises and techniques to improve his independence with daily living activities, such as dressing, bathing and toileting.

Jean’s physical therapists initially focused on standing, bearing weight on his left leg and walking short distances with assistance. Initially, he used the handrail and was only able to walk approximately 10 feet with maximum assistance. He then progressed to using a rolling walker, followed by a one-sided walker and eventually a four-point cane. Over time, the strength in Jean’s leg increased enough that he no longer required assistance when walking.

One of Jean’s biggest barriers to returning home was the 14 steps that led to his apartment. The Tollos, a bodyweight support harness, was used to help Jean practice using the stairs safely. After a few sessions in the harness, he advanced to stair training with minimum assistance. Eventually, Jean was able to complete 14 steps daily without any physical assistance, and he said this accomplishment was the turning point in his recovery.  “As I’ve gone through the process, it’s like a miracle every time something comes back,” said Jean.

One of the biggest emotional challenges Jean faced during recovery was not being able to have visitors due to COVID-19 restrictions. Although his family and friends were unable to visit, he felt the constant love and support from his wife, other family and friends, as well as his co-workers through daily phone calls, text messages and the occasional gift basket. This provided the encouragement Jean needed to keep going.

After four weeks at Ochsner Rehabilitation Hospital, Jean discharged home with his wife, Jade. He was able to walk more than 150 feet with a four-point cane and ankle foot orthotic, a special brace used to support the ankle and foot. He was most excited about relaxing and enjoying a beer (with his physician’s approval).

Jean planned to continue his recovery with home health therapy followed by outpatient therapy to keep improving the strength and function of his left arm.

When asked about advice for others going through a similar struggle, Jean shared, “Be patient. The stroke recovery process is slow and long. Celebrate the little victories even if it is a toe wiggle. That is a sign that your brain is healing and recovering.”