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Making the most of her rehabilitation: After a stroke, she’s motivated to live a healthier life

Occupational therapist Beth Rolland, left, with stroke rehabilitation patient Melissa Meloling, during a therapy session. (photo by Robert Mescavage)

Occupational therapist Beth Rolland, left, with stroke rehabilitation patient Melissa Meloling during a therapy session. (photo by Robert Mescavage)


Melissa Meloling can walk, if she keeps an eye on her feet, so she doesn‘t trip. She learned how to tell time again. She‘s relearning how to fix her hair, although assembling a ponytail is still tricky. Her vision returned. She ditched cigarettes.

She was revived from a stroke in June. Since then she‘s been putting her life back together. “It‘s been a wake-up call,” says Meloling, 44, of Bridgeport.

Meloling takes medicine for high blood pressure, but she had skipped taking it. When her mother didn‘t hear from her one morning, she came to Meloling‘s house. Meloling was barely breathing. Her mother called 911 and performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on her daughter with the help of the call center until the first responders arrived. She was rushed to St. Joseph‘s Hospital Health Center. Once it became clear that Meloling was having a stroke, doctors transferred her to the Comprehensive Stroke Center at Upstate.

She was recovering in a bed in the neurological intensive care unit when Meloling regained consciousness a couple of days later. She couldn‘t feel her whole right side. She was blind in her right eye. She couldn‘t think of the right words to speak. She was terrified. Her mother was at her bedside.

It would be eight weeks before Meloling would be able to go home — and only after extensive rehabilitation with a multitude of therapists, many of whom she still sees regularly, more than six months after her stroke.

“At one point my doctor told me that the stroke was blood-pressure related,” she recalls.

When Meloling began working with occupational therapist Beth Rolland in August, she struggled to use a knife and fork. She had trouble brushing her teeth and washing her face. Buttons and zippers were a challenge, and she wasn‘t tying her own shoes yet.

Rolland is impressed with Meloling‘s determination. “She‘s doing all of those things now.

“She doesn‘t give up. She will keep trying and trying until she gets it.”

To benefit most from occupational therapy, patients need to continue work prescribed by their therapist at home. Rolland says some people don‘t make the effort and consequently don‘t see much improvement. But Meloling is motivated. “That plays a huge role in her recovery,” Rolland says.

With the support and love from her mom, stepdad and two aunts, Meloling continues to heal and work hard at rehabilitation daily, which also includes outpatient physical therapy.

Today she keeps careful track of her blood pressure, recording it three times a day. She works with her therapists to improve her brain‘s ability to follow a train of thought and to recall memories. And, through her rehabilitation, she has managed to quit smoking and says she no longer craves cigarettes.

“When something like this happens, and you need to make a change,” she says, “you just do what you need to do.”

Upstate Health magazine cover, winter 2019 issueThis article appears in the winter 2019 issue of Upstate Health magazine.