Liberty Borough resident Phyllis McCorkle was feeling pretty low when she started inpatient rehab at the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute at UPMC McKeesport in January 2021.

Just a few days earlier, the busy 77-year-old was getting ready to head to her job at the local grocery where she worked in the prepared foods section. But a sudden stroke left her paralyzed on her right side. She couldn’t walk or use her right hand, and she couldn’t speak clearly.

“It was horrible. When you’re lying in bed and you can’t move, it’s pretty depressing,” says Phyllis. “I didn’t think I could get better.”

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Stroke Rehabilitation

Phyllis was relieved to receive inpatient rehab at UPMC McKeesport, which is just 10 minutes from her home. Initially, the stroke rehabilitation therapists there had to help her get up and out of bed. She also needed a wheelchair.

“At first, I couldn’t even sit up in bed. I kept falling over,” says Phyllis. “They had to teach me everything. But within a couple of days, I could see it was making a difference. Things started to look up.”

Phyllis wanted to walk again. But her main goal was to regain independence.

“I didn’t want to be waited on. I wanted to do things for myself,” she says.

A physical therapist worked with Phyllis on regaining movement, especially in her legs, and building strength, coordination, and balance. An occupational therapist focused on improving her hand and arm movement while also helping her to relearn the skills she needed to take care of herself, including bathing, toileting, and dressing. A speech therapist helped her relearn how to speak.

The therapists also showed her how to use a special walker that only requires the use of one arm and provided braces for added support of her leg and shoulder.

“They were great. If I struggled to do something, they wouldn’t let me quit. If I started feeling down, they told me it takes time and to hang in there,” says Phyllis. “They always gave me the right amount of support and encouragement.”

During her 45-day stay in inpatient rehab, Phyllis spent 3 hours a day in rehab. As she progressed, her therapists worked with her on the skills she needed to live on her own again — everything from getting in and out of the shower or tub, going up and down steps, cooking, washing dishes, and doing laundry. She also practiced getting into and out of a car.

“Phyllis was determined to regain her independence and overcome her stroke,” says physical therapist assistant Kim Shawl of UPMC Rehabilitation Institute. “She never once lost sight of her goals; she never used the phrase ‘I can’t.'”

Within weeks of returning home after rehab, she could speak clearly again and walk around her house without a walker or cane. Although Phyllis is still working on her fine motor skills, she has regained some use of her right hand. She’s hoping to be able to drive again and even go back to work.

“The therapists were remarkable. They did wonders for me,” she says. “They taught me everything. Without rehab, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

About UPMC Rehabilitation Institute

The UPMC Rehabilitation Institute offers inpatient, outpatient, and transitional rehabilitation, as well as outpatient physician services so that care is available to meet the needs of our patients at each phase of the recovery process. Renowned physiatrists from the University of Pittsburgh Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, as well as highly trained physical, occupational, and speech therapists, provide individualized care in 12 inpatient units within acute care hospitals and over 80 outpatient locations close to home and work.