Nele’s fighting spirit in reclaiming her life

Complaining of a severe headache and neck pain, 36-year-old Nele was admitted to Royal North Shore Hospital (RNS) for tests, when an MRI and lumbar puncture led to a diagnosis of Encephalitis; an inflammation of the brain, often caused by infection. 

Despite receiving antibiotic treatment, Neleís condition progressively worsened, with a significant decline in her coordination and speech within  just three days.

Complications ensued and Nele was diagnosed with Cerebellitis, plunging her into a life-threatening situation. Unable to speak clearly or walk, and experiencing extreme fatigue, Nele’s coordination was significantly impacted. Swallowing also became increasingly difficult, and she experienced severe bouts of vertigo and excruciating headaches. After a number of relapses Nele finally turned the corner and was discharged to commence her recovery as an inpatient at Royal Rehab Private in Ryde.

Describing her arrival at Royal Rehab, Nele says she was ‘euphoric.’ “I had my own room with a balcony, and I felt immediately relaxed. The staff were so respectful and attentive. Right from the start I felt well taken care of.”

Employing a multidisciplinary approach, the team developed a program tailored to Nele’s needs, encompassing occupational therapy, physiotherapy, and speech pathology. “When Nele was admitted she was very weak,” shares Royal Rehab Private Ryde’s senior physiotherapist, Jane Liu. “Whilst she was able to walk, her balance, coordination, and endurance were greatly reduced, and she was unable to negotiate stairs without using the hand railing. The therapy was focused on improving her overall fitness, stamina, strength, and balance.”

Nele participated in two physiotherapy sessions daily, pursuing high-level balance, endurance, and fitness enhancement. Stationary bike and treadmill sessions targeted cardiovascular fitness, navigating uneven terrains during outdoor walks addressed high-level balance, while hydrotherapy concentrated on core and leg strengthening, alongside balance exercises.

Occupational therapy zeroed in on improving upper limb strength and refining fine motor skills. “I even had to learn how to write again,” Nele explains. Sessions extended to memory enhancement and quicker information processing, both of which had been hampered by Nele’s extreme levels of fatigue.

For speech therapy, strategies included articulation and word retrieval. Nele describes her experience as being akin to ‘words being erased from your memory.’ Techniques ranged from lip and tongue exercises, amplified sound articulation, and one-syllable components for clarity. Word retrieval tactics included picture naming, cues, semantic associations, and naming tasks. An accompanying home exercise regimen contributed to Nele’s progress.

Nele made great progress as an inpatient with her speech, strength, balance, and endurance all improving. Her balance had improved so much that she started to practice slow jogging on the mini tramp and was able to walk up and down stairs without a rail.

Now back home with her husband and two young children, Nele attends Royal Rehab Private Ryde’s Day Program twice weekly to consolidate the gains she made as an inpatient. “I love attending the day program,” Nele says. “They challenge me in great ways and get me to do things I wouldn’t normally do at home. I feel like I’m making great progress every week.“

With aspirations to resume her senior HR role later in the year, Nele is confident that opting for rehabilitation at Royal Rehab over a direct return home from RNS has been instrumental in her recovery. “

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