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Extending a Recovery

  • Date Submitted: Jul 22, 2022

In January 2020, Stacy Elliott awoke in the middle of the night. Something was terribly wrong. She stirred her husband, Phil.

“I was like, here,” says Stacy, pointing to her right arm. “What’s happening? I was scared.”

Stacy was suffering an ischemic stroke. Within hours, it would leave her with full right-side paralysis and severe aphasia—and her family with an uncertain future.

“We were told by two brain specialists, including her surgeon, that she’ll never use her right limbs again,” recalls Phil. “She’ll never speak or even understand language again.”

But he and their three children kept hope. While the long-time Claremont resident stabilized in a local hospital, someone told them about Casa Colina’s renowned inpatient rehabilitation program for individuals recovering from stroke. They met with Casa Colina Director of Patient Admissions Sandi Plotkin, and she quickly agreed to start the admission process for Stacy.

“Sandi was really our first bright light,” says Phil. “She was the first one to say, we’re going to get you through this. It’s going to be OK.”

Soon, Stacy arrived at Casa Colina Hospital and began her three daily hours of specialized physical, occupational, and speech therapies tailored for stroke recovery. Stacy and Phil recall the kindness and patience of inpatient therapists like Demi Mearns, Renee Nielsen, and Joe Ponce. Stacy’s progress was slow but steady.

Within weeks, Stacy’s insurance ran out for inpatient rehabilitation. While Stacy had made functional gains, her therapists knew she would benefit from rigorous, continued treatment. They suggested Casa Colina’s Transitional Living Center (TLC) Day Treatment Program, which offers six daily hours of structured outpatient therapies. Some of it would have to be paid out of pocket due to insurance limitations—pushing the family’s finances to the brink. But Phil was determined to pursue it for Stacy’s best chance at recovery.

Luckily, with its Free and Subsidized Care Fund, the Casa Colina Foundation could supplement the limited treatment afforded by Stacy’s insurance provider, enabling her to continue her therapy for an additional two months. With regular, extended therapy, and with the guidance of TLC clinicians like Hannah Cone, Eunice Joo, and Amanda Perrotti, Stacy made great progress in the ensuing months.

“It was huge,” says Phil. “To have that help—TLC was so important to her recovery. It was so helpful to have that rigorous rehabilitation. It was just a real gift.”

“It was really nice,” remembers Stacy. “The TLC, they were really good.”

While Stacy’s mobility is limited, and she struggles with speaking, she’s made significant headway and continues to improve on tasks of daily living. She’s even returned part-time to her job as an archivist at nearby Pitzer College. Clinical neuropsychologist Dr. Suranee Waleszonia and Stacy’s therapy team even helped Stacy to get physically and emotionally resituated at work, visiting her onsite through Casa Colina’s Home & Community Program.

Extended therapy and community reintegration services make a world of difference for patients like Stacy Elliott, bridging the gap between sustaining a life-changing injury and finding their new normal. Gifts to our Foundation enable Casa Colina patients to extend their recoveries through subsidized care and take advantage of a wide range of other community benefits.

Now, Stacy’s enjoying the ability to reengage with her community. She’s enjoying painting and cooking again. She drives locally and participates in a book group with friends. She’s regaining sense of self through the everyday routines of work and family life.

Phil is just grateful that Casa Colina provided an opportunity to go farther in her recovery.

“Obviously, the therapy was for Stacy, but it’s also giving our children their mom back,” says Phil. “It’s giving me my spouse back. Our children benefit. I benefit. The Pitzer community benefits.

“As she gets better, it’s making a lot of people’s lives better.”