Park Forest Man Overcomes Stroke Deficits and Regains Independence

The passage of time is a peculiar thing. Depending on your perspective, weeks and months can fly by at lightning speed—and an hour can drag on for an eternity.

Rashad Sanford of Park Forest has experienced both ends of the spectrum. And from January 2012 to the present day, the doting father of two also discovered that a single moment of time can profoundly change your life.

Rashad's perspective about a lot of things changed in January of last year when he suffered the unimaginable: a hemorrhagic stroke at the age of 36.

The day started out ordinary enough. Following an invigorating workout, the energetic retail manager went to his second job tutoring math and reading students at an area school. In usual fashion, he greeted his students and sat down.

Then, without warning, Rashad was gripped with a severe headache. He laid his head down on the desk for relief but within seconds, the otherwise healthy Rashad slid to the floor. His frightened students ran to get help while he struggled to get up. But he couldn't. In fact, Rashad couldn't even feel his left hand.

"I remember asking the EMTs, 'Where's my left hand,'" he recalls. "I had no idea what was happening." Stroke, he says, was the furthest thing from his mind. "It wasn't even on my radar."

But that's exactly what doctors confirmed when he was brought to Ingalls Memorial Hospital, the area's first specialty Primary Stroke Center. And the stroke was severe enough that it rendered his left side "useless," he explains, including the vision in his left eye.

Following hospitalization, Rashad was transferred to the Ingalls Center for Rehabilitative Medicine at the main hospital campus in Harvey. There, he worked with physical, occupational and speech therapists to regain the basic skills that left him in a moment's time.

"I came to the unit in a wheelchair," he recalls. "I couldn't stand on my own. I had trouble talking."

But with the assistance of his team of therapists and nursing staff—and his own will to succeed – the determined Rashad eventually graduated to a walker and relearned basic skills like eating and bathing.

"I told them, 'This is a marathon not a sprint,'" he remembers with a ready smile—something he couldn't do immediately following his stroke.

"With the help of his therapists, Rashad made significant progress," explains Jeanne Wilson, M.D., medical director.

Within weeks, Rashad was discharged from the inpatient unit at Ingalls and began outpatient therapy at Ingalls Family Care Center in Flossmoor. He slowly progressed from a walker to a cane, and in May, he took his first unassisted steps.

Today, the tireless Rashad is nearly 100%. He can drive again, and he walks and talks nearly as well as he did before the stroke in January. Rashad gratefully credits his rehabilitation team at Ingalls.

"I really feel that the reason I was able to progress is because of my therapists," he said. "I have a very competitive personality. They picked up on that, and they allowed me to push myself and try new things."

For instance, though he was barely able to stand on his own in the very beginning, the determined Rashad wanted to walk on the treadmill.

"Even though it took extra therapists to help me, they would hoist me on the treadmill so I could try to walk," he remembers. "I really wanted to do it, and they let me try even if it took extra staff. That really motivated me to work harder."

"I jokingly called my therapists 'Coach,'" he added.

"They had the expertise, and I had to perform. I'll never forget them and what they did for me. I would definitely recommend Ingalls for stroke rehabilitation."

"Rashad's progress was truly amazing," said Amy Bader, OTR/L, occupational therapist at the Ingalls Flossmoor therapy center. "He's a very driven person. When he started here, he had five pounds of grip strength. He left with 65 pounds. He is awesome."

Ingalls Stroke Rehabilitation Services

When it comes to stroke—just as with a heart attack—time is of the essence. Quick diagnosis and treatment at a designated stroke center is critical. Offering 24/7 stroke specialty services, including the availability of vital diagnostic imaging and clot-busting medications, Ingalls was the region's first designated Primary Stroke Center by the State of Illinois in 2009. And for 10 years in a row (2003-2012), Ingalls has been designated a Five-Star Recipient for treatment of stroke by independent ratings company HealthGrades.

Rehabilitation after stroke is also critically important. Ingalls offers a full continuum of rehabilitative services, including acute therapy, inpatient rehabilitation in the region's largest CARF-accredited inpatient unit, day rehabilitation, outpatient therapies and home health therapies. A patient can enter at any program phase and can be referred by any physician.

Ingalls is renowned for its stroke care.

"Initiating a rehabilitation program as soon as possible after a stroke or any brain dysfunction is critical to recovery," Dr. Wilson explained. "To aid patients in their recovery, our treatment programs are tailored to meet specific rehabilitation needs. Throughout the rehabilitation process, there is close communication with the patient's personal physician, neurologist and care coordinator to optimize coordination of the patient's treatment plan."

For more information about stroke care and rehabilitation at Ingalls, call Ingalls Care Connection at 708.915.CARE (2273).


If you or someone you know has one or more of the warning signs of stroke, don't delay. Immediately call 9-1-1.

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body;
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding;
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes;
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination;
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause.
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