Amanda Ippel and her husband Benjamin were enjoying a quiet evening at home on May 20, 2012, observing the lunar eclipse. The kids were in bed and Amanda, 13 weeks pregnant with her fifth child, was winding down for the night when suddenly and without warning an intense pain changed everything.
She wouldn’t know it until much later, but Amanda had suffered a middle cerebral artery infarction so severe that, in her words, “it was basically like taking a sledgehammer to the entire right hemisphere of my brain.” The stroke robbed her of her ability to walk, use her left arm, and to call upon the skills so vital to raising a young family – planning, scheduling and using sound judgment.
She was treated at a hospital near Chandler, where her family lives, but her discharge was just the beginning of her recovery. Amanda required intense rehabilitation to regain the skills and functions the stroke had taken away.
Amanda says she is able to tell her story now only because she found the Center for Transitional NeuroRehabilitation (CTN) at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center's Barrow Neurological Institute. The staff and patients there helped her get her life back.
CTN offers intensive, day-long treatment for adolescents and adults with brain and spinal cord injuries. The emphasis of the program is independence – at home, work or school, and in the community. The program does not see the patient as an island, also offering the family emotional support and education about the loved one's strengths and limitations and how they can best help once the patient returns home.
Since opening in 1986, CTN has helped more than 800 patients regain the skills they need to return to productive, fulfilling lives. Unfortunately, space constraints at CTN mean some patients must be put on a wait list, which postpones treatment essential to their successful rehabilitation.
Barrow Neurological Foundation is currently working to raise $300,000 to double the size of the CTN facility through an expansion project.
Amanda says she was lucky to secure a spot in the program and blessed to qualify for financial support to help her family pay for it. She will finish her program at CTN in January 2015. Her goal is to be able to take care of her children full time with 100 percent independence. She says she's almost there.
“Put your money on CTN,” she says. “It shapes a whole person -- the cognitive, social and physical. They treat you holistically. They offer the support that brain-injured people need to recover.”