arlene's story

surviving stroke 

Recognized for Great Care by Arlene and the AHA  
Arlene Cich experienced a hemorrhagic stroke, but made a strong recovery with the help of her doctors and stroke rehabilitation specialists at Aurora St. Luke's in Milwaukee – 2013 recipient of a Gold Plus award for stroke care by the American Heart Association's Get With The Guidelines Program.  

"I wanted to go here because I knew it was the best" 

January 8, 2006, started out like any other Sunday for Arlene Cich. While taking a bath that morning, Arlene suddenly shivered and rolled over in the tub. Then she realized she couldn’t get up. Arlene called for her husband, Len, who ran into the bathroom. Len took one look at his wife’s face, which was drooping, and knew Arlene had just had a stroke.

Len called 911. When the paramedics arrived, Arlene told them she wanted to go to Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center

“I knew it was the best place,” she says. Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center is one of nine Primary Stroke Centers that provide Joint Commission-certified care, which means that patients are treated faster, improving their chances for a better recovery.

Doctors at Aurora St. Luke’s determined that Arlene had suffered a hemorrhagic stroke, or “brain bleed,” a condition that accounts for about 13% of stroke cases. 

Arlene stayed in intensive care for almost 2 weeks before she was moved to the stroke rehabilitation floor. “It was intense, but I made a lot of progress,” Arlene recalls. “They work with you immediately.”

Luckily, Arlene didn’t suffer from aphasia, a disorder that makes it difficult to read, write and speak properly. However, her rehab included exercises with balance, stretching and swallowing – and she had to learn to walk again. 

Len was with Arlene every day during her physical and occupational therapy. “He didn’t miss a day,” Arlene says of her husband. “He was my cheering section.”

Before the stroke, Arlene was very active: she worked full-time, walked 2 miles a day and loved to garden. Today, Arlene walks with the assistance of a cane and is unable to use her left arm. Still, she says, “I was lucky.” She notes the many things she can do, like cooking, bathing and dressing. “You can still do things,” she says. “You just learn to do them differently.”

Since Arlene's stroke, she and Len have become volunteers on the Stroke Patient Advisory Council at Aurora St. Luke’s, which is dedicated to providing education and support for stroke patients and their families. Arlene advises new patients to take it one day at a time. “You can’t look too far behind, because you can’t be that person again,” she says. 

Looking back on their experience at Aurora St. Luke’s, Arlene and Len are grateful for the care she received. “I wanted to go here because I knew that it was the best,” she says. “There were so many people that helped me and pushed me forward.” 

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