Cara Paradise’s Story

Fairlawn | 2.15.12

When Cara Paradise started feeling slightly fluish, she wasn’t about to let it slow her down. With two small children in the house, taking a sick day wasn’t really an option to her. Yet her small headache grew stronger, exhaustion began to overwhelm her, and Cara found herself at the doctor then the hospital for the symptoms.

Each time, sent home for an ever-worsening ‘flu’, she powered on. Over the course of just one week, the symptoms took hold of Cara, exhaustion and nausea gave way to a self-described ‘brain-fog’ until finally a seizure in her kitchen had her on her way, by ambulance this time, to the ICU.

The diagnosis? Viral encephalitis, a swelling of the brain. In intensive care for 4-5 days, Cara thankfully remembers very little from those first few days.

“All I know is that I couldn’t move at all for the first three weeks – I was stiff as a board on the bed. That’s how they took me to Fairlawn.”

Cara’s husband, Glen, was impressed immediately by the staff and the facilities. “It was a hospital – doctors, nurses, therapists – yet everyone, across the board, were so caring from the minute we got there.”

Her first week, Fairlawn’s acute rehabilitation center enabled Cara to have the IV drip of anti-seizure medicine she required. Once off the IV, her team started her immediately on the cognitive, physical and speech therapies essential to her speedy and ultimately fuller recovery.

Physically, surprisingly, Cara started strong – able to get from bed to wheelchair, wheelchair to walker to solo walking in days. It was the cognitive and speaking elements of her life that proved to be her most significant challenge.

“I had to relearn my life.” She says.

“I’ve heard that a lot of people sink pretty deeply into depression – I can see why. When I arrived I was pretty angry and frustrated” Cara states with her characteristic vigor, “but with my team, they just got to know who I was, what makes me tick and they kept me hopeful and positive from day 1.”

“They said to me. ‘Cara, this is what you are. This is what you have. This is what you need to do.’ Gave me goals, gave me honesty, really cared about every element of my health and my progress and my family.”

An intense combination of therapies, partnered with a skilled medical team and highly trained staff helped Cara progress in all ways remarkably quickly. Cara’s own steely will and determination kept her looking forward as the holidays drew near.

In just 3 weeks, Cara went from IV to walking out the door, on her way home for Thanksgiving and some of the recovery memories vital to bringing back her back to her every day world. Before she left, her team had traveled to her home to ensure the space was prepared for her challenges ahead. They had schooled Cara on what to expect, encouraged her to eat more to regain her vital strength and arranged the outpatient treatment that would guide her progress moving forward.

“They were so important to me.” Cara says. “These amazing women – this amazing group of people. They were absolutely the reason I got through this. “

A year later, Cara’s regained much of her speech, her memory and her reading and writing abilities while caring for their children and regaining her life.

“Anyone who has ever had to go through this knows it’s not easy and it’s not a sure thing. The support you get is the biggest factor of all. And for that, I would absolutely say, without a doubt, Fairlawn brought me back.”

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