Rebounding After Stroke: A Poet Rediscovers His Words

When a New York cab driver suffered a stroke, his family turned to Bancroft NeuroRehab to help him regain the ability to do the things he loved. 

When Paul Charles suffered a stroke in early 2017, it threatened his livelihood, and many of the things that mattered most to the Staten Island, New York, native.

Until his stroke, Paul worked as a New York City cab driver; now, at just 60 years old, his livelihood was in doubt. A loss of his fine motor skills stripped the once-active husband and father of the ability to do two of his favorite things: Cooking for his family, and writing poetry.

Paul’s family knew he needed some type of rehabilitation to help him reclaim the parts of his life the stroke had so suddenly stripped away.

In June 2017, just a few months after his stroke, Paul and his family turned to Bancroft NeuroRehab; his daughter, Jeannette, worked for the program — and the Charles family knew the difference the right rehab facility would make.

“I saw firsthand the work this team did in helping so many people regain their lives after a brain injury or stroke,” said Jeannette. “I knew this was the right place for my dad and I wouldn’t have chosen any other place for him to have received care.”

Paul had a long road ahead of him.

Paul cooks an omelet during an occupational therapy session.

When he entered rehab, he walked with a rolling walker, but had balance issues; he had a hoarse voice, with low pitch and a slight speech impediment.  He also struggled with word finding and reading, which, for an avid reader and poet, was difficult to accept.

After an initial evaluation, Paul’s interdisciplinary team of physical, speech and occupational therapists came together to develop a comprehensive plan that would address all of Paul’s issues and help him regain the skills he valued the most. The team knew it would be a challenge, but Paul had the determination to get through it all.

“Paul worked really hard to regain what he had lost,” says Dorcas Tarbell, Paul’s physical therapist. “By the time he was discharged, Paul was walking on a treadmill at a pace a little above normal walking speed, at a slight incline, for 20 minutes, a major accomplishment from where he was.”

“It was a lot of hard work,” said Paul. “But it was worthwhile; the team got me back to walking and interacting with people again.”

Paul has regained many of the skills affected by his stroke.

His team of therapists also focused on improving Paul’s fine motor skills – so that he could get back to the kitchen.

“Paul had been banned from cooking at home because of safety concerns,” said Amy Kramer, Paul’s occupational therapist. “We spent time cooking meals together in therapy, focused not just on his motor skills, but also on practicing safe-cooking techniques.”  

Today, Paul is back to cooking simple meals at home; omelets have become his specialty.

Paul’s poetry and writing had also been an important part of his life. 

“His goals were to improve his writing, his ability to find words, and his reading comprehension,” said Sari Mintz, Paul’s speech therapist. “By the end of Paul’s time in speech therapy, he had achieved all his treatment goals.”

His comprehension skills had improved to the point where he could read and understand new books. But his biggest success would come when, finally, Paul wrote a new poem – all on his own.

Paul was discharged from the Outpatient Program at Bancroft NeuroRehab on Oct. 19 – less than 18 months after his stroke.

“The team at Bancroft NeuroRehab, worked just as hard as I did to get me back to doing the things that I love,” said Paul. “They were a good partner for me.”