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Rocklin, Calif.- Rocklin resident Christi Harsono, woke up to a dazzling New Year’s Day at the start of 2010. She threw the covers back on the bed, slid her feet into slippers and padded out to the living room. There she gazed out the window to take in the sparkling sunshine and exquisite blue sky. Inspired, she prayed, ‘Happy New Year, God! Thank you for this beautiful day.’ She continued her affirmations with a joyful heart, surrendering herself into the New Year.

Suddenly, everything went black. Unconscious, she slumped to the floor. Harsono suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage in her right vertebral artery, a serious, life-threatening type of stroke caused by bleeding into the space that surrounds the brain. 

Her friend, William, found her on the floor, totally unresponsive. He called 911. Paramedics arrived and they rushed Harsono to the hospital. At the hospital a worried William contacted Harsono’s family and her children, sons Steven and Josh, and daughter Clarissa. Results from a CT scan showed the subarachnoid bleed. Interventional radiologist Bahram Varjavand, M.D., performed an endovascular coil embolization procedure in which he placed 16 coils in Harsono’s right vertebral artery.

Due to the severe bleeding in her brain, Harsono remained unconscious. She had to be intubated because she wasn’t breathing on her own. Doctors feared she might be brain dead.

Friends, family and children stayed by Harsono’s side in the Intensive Care Unit as she slowly regained consciousness. However her brain suffered from the bleed and Harsono was left with some speech and language deficits, memory problems and weakened arms and legs.

After two weeks Harsono was transferred into a step-down ICU unit. Still she was hardly functioning on her own and needed care for most everything. Hospital clinicians advised her family and children to consider placing her in a long-term care facility. But, as luck would have it, a respiratory therapist told Harsono that she’d be a good candidate for Sutter Rehabilitation Institute.

In order to be transferred to Sutter Rehabilitation Institute, Harsono had to be able to perform four hours of rehabilitation a day. This meant she had to be able to sit up, stand up, eat (she couldn’t swallow) and more. However, her Functional Independence Measure (FIM), a score to measure a patient’s functional abilities, was very low because she wasn’t able to perform these tasks very easily. Although it was a struggle, Harsono was determined, and, with a lot of hard work, she met the performance goals and raised her FIM score in order to be transferred.

Once at Sutter Rehabilitation Institute, she worked with Speech Therapists for cognitive development, Occupational Therapist to re-learn how to do every day activities such as cooking, laundry and more. ‘My brain capacity was gone and I had to re-learn everything.’ She also worked with Physical Therapists who helped her rebuild and strengthen her muscles through walking, climbing stairs and eventually through riding a stationary bike.

‘I didn’t have any strength,’ said Harsono. ‘Your mind says to move your leg and your leg wants to move but you don’t have any strength to move it because it weighs a ton.’

In addition to indoor therapy, Harsono also underwent treatment in an outdoor therapy area at the rehabilitation institute where there are different surfaces she had to learn how to walk on. There she walked on sand, cement, grass and gravel.  She also learned how to walk up a graduated incline. ‘It was difficult,’ she said.

After two weeks of therapy Harsono regained her day-to-day living activity skills and was ready to be discharged to home. Her sons, Steven and Josh, picked her up at Sutter Rehabilitation Institute and drove to her Rocklin home. Steven pulled the car into the driveway. Harsono looked at her homeย—she’d been gone for almost six weeksย—and took it all in. Smiling, she released the seat belt, opened the car door and got out. ‘I was very happy to be home,’ she said.  ‘It felt like a huge victory.’

She continued rehabilitation at home through home health therapists for five more weeks continuing brain exercises for cognitive therapy and riding her stationary bike for physical therapy. She finished up with out-patient rehabilitation at Sutter Roseville Rehabilitation Services.

On Memorial weekend, five months after the bleed, Harsono, outfitted with an expensive helmet, went on a bike ride with William from the Nimbus Dam to Old Sacramento for the Jazz Jubilee Festival.  A month later she was back to work, 180 days after her initial brain injury from the subarachnoid bleed.

Today Harsono is thankful for her scores of friends and colleagues, her family and her children who were so loving and dedicated toward her during this trying time. She is thankful for the expert staff who treated and cared for her. And, she continues to reflect with prayers of gratitude each day. ‘My experience was a miracle and a gift,’ she said. ‘I’m glad I have this opportunity to show others there is hope after something like this.’

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