Dennis S.

Dennis S.

Dennis Sumler served our community for 42 years as a police officer and part of the Clark County Probation Office. He retired in January 2017. Dennis and his wife settled into his retirement by staying active and enjoyed walking together for exercise.

That September, after spending a normal day together, Julie and Dennis sat down around 6:00 pm. They put golf on the TV and began discussing what to make for dinner. Suddenly, Julie realized that she wasn’t getting a response from Dennis. She looked over at him and noticed that he was looking away from her. Julie asked, “Dennis, What’s wrong?” Again, she received no response. Julie quickly got up and grasped his face in her hands. She immediately knew that Dennis must be having a stroke. She painfully remembers his eyes bulging and his lips tightly pursed, He was unable to speak. She ran to the phone to dial 9-1-1 and told the operator that she believed her husband was having a stroke. During the short five minute wait for the ambulance, Julie contacted a friend. The friend advised Julie to request that Dennis be sent to the University of Louisville for care.

Within an hour upon arriving at UofL, Dennis underwent a myriad of tests. He received TpA to break up the clot and was seen by the neurosurgeon. Initially, the clot wasn’t breaking up. The doctor determined they had to perform surgery to pull it out. Julie agreed and anxiously settled in for the multi-hour surgery. Her heart dropped into her stomach when the surgeon walked into the room a mere 15 minutes later. Julie thought Dennis had passed. Thankfully, the doctor had come to let her know that the clot had broken up. Surgery was no longer needed.

The next few days were emotional for the Sumlers. They began to see the level of deficits that Dennis would be facing. He was unable to move his right arm or leg. He could not sit up on his own, swallow, talk, or follow commands. Julie immediately began to worry whether they would be able to remain in their current home. She knew rehabilitation would be the next step. Julie began consulting many of the UofL therapists and doctors. With their help, Julie decided on Southern Indiana Rehabilitation Hospital (SIRH).

When Dennis arrived at SIRH, he could barely wiggle his right toes and had no movement in his right arm. His diet consisted of thickened liquids and pureed food. But Dennis met each day at SIRH with a positive attitude and a great sense of humor. He gradually began having movement in his arm and progressed from static standing to taking his first steps in the parallel bars. Dennis recalls initially being terrified of falling and of putting weight on the right leg. Dennis made outstanding progress but required continued therapy following his inpatient stay. He discharged home with Julie and continued outpatient therapy at SIRH.

As an outpatient, Dennis refined his fine motor skills and focused on improving his balance. He is now thriving at home. Dennis can work the remote control, phone, iPad, and computer, and read from his Kindle. He is able to perform all his daily tasks on his own and walks without an assistive device.

Dennis continues to have to work on certain verbalizations and word-finding skills. But both he and Julie agree that they continue to see progress each day.

While at SIRH, Dennis and Julie developed some very special relationships. They wished to extend a special “thank you” to his OTs, Chelsea Knifley, MaryBeth Mattingly, and Erin Johnsen, PTs Jessica Vogelpohl and Susan Litzinger, and his nurse, Katie Phillips. "We owe everything we have to SIRH," they stated. "Our experience was like nothing I could have imagined. We witnessed compassion and patience that was heartfelt and helped us know how we would need to approach our new life together. The therapists were able to motivate and encourage, even on our darkest days, and worked magic. We are forever thankful!"