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. 

Paul Charles came to Bancroft NeuroRehab in Cherry Hill in June 2017, a few months after suffering a stroke in Staten Island, New York, where he worked as a taxi cab driver.

Paul’s family understood the difference the right rehab facility could provide; his daughter, Jeannette, worked at Bancroft NeuroRehab.

“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.

Importantly, the stroke had affected Paul’s fine motor skills – and stripped him of the ability to do two of his favorite things: Cooking for his family, and writing poetry.

“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, to improve his fine motor skills and practice 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; but struggles with word-finding, reading comprehension and fine motor skills needed to be overcome before Paul could put pen back to paper. 

“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.”