Rehabilitation Hospital of the Northwest helps stroke patients regain what was lost

Alan Golub was starting to feel depressed about his situation.

A stroke had robbed him of movement on the left side of his body and impacted his speech.
He didn’t know if he would be able to walk or continue with his artwork. The Hayden resident was determined to recover, but the seeds of doubt were growing.

Then his doctor got hold of Golub’s mandolin and asked him to play. Golub started playing the Frankie Laine song, “Ghost Riders in the Sky.” Notes filled the halls of the Rehabilitation Hospital of the Northwest in Post Falls. They were the sweet sounds of recovery.

“At first, I couldn’t move my left hand at all,” Golub said. “It sounded bad, but I never imagined being able to play again.”

The unusual approach of blending music with physical rehabilitation played a critical role in Golub’s recovery, said Dr. Neilly Buckalew, who assisted with Golub’s recovery.

“Musicians’ brains are wired differently,” she said. “The second

I found out he was a musician, I knew this would help him recover from the stroke and it did.”

Buckalew is a physiatrist, a medical doctor who treats a wide variety of medical conditions affecting the brain, spinal cord, nerves, bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons, using an integrated approach to medicine. Her approach to pain management is different than most.

“I believe strongly in not prescribing narcotic pain medicine,” she said. “We have a real problem in this country with opiate addiction. The sooner we can move away from those prescriptions in a recovery, the better.”

Buckalew also ordered an aggressive regimen of physical therapy —- something Golub embraced with gusto.

“If they said two hours, I would do an extra four,” he said. “Every day I pushed myself.”

The 63-year-old has worn many hats over the years, including real estate broker, substitute teacher, graphic designer and musician.

Last year, Golub created a tribute poster to fallen Coeur d’Alene police officer Greg Moore. His artwork is featured with this sponsored content story.

In addition to his professional and personal accomplishments, Golub almost became a statistic. The Centers for Disease Control says that 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke every year and it estimates 130,000 die of strokes annually.

Alan Golub and his wife went to Northern Quest Resort & Casino on Jan. 23 and nearly cashed in all of his chips. Golub was going for a walk when he began to feel ill. He didn’t get far, collapsing in the hotel. Jim Shaeffer, one of the emergency medical technicians on staff rushed to his side. Golub’s blood pressure was sky high — 256 over 180 — and the EMTs believed he was having a stroke.

“I didn’t feel right and I knew that I was in trouble,” he said. “Luckily, they had EMTs on duty and they were able to get me to the hospital quickly. Ten minutes more and I would have lost my ability to speak; another 10 minutes and I might not be breathing today.”

Golub was treated at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane and the preliminary diagnosis of a stroke was confirmed. He was paralyzed on the left side of his body and he had trouble speaking. Golub was admitted to the Rehabilitation Hospital in order to recover from the stroke.

“Alan is amazing,” Buckalew said of Golub’s recovery. “He’s 120 percent better than when I first saw him. He worked hard and he had a great attitude.”

Today, it would be hard to know Golub had suffered a stroke two months ago. He still walks with the assistance of a walker, but his speech and movement are normal. He is able to crack jokes and he appreciates life.

“I feel like I am totally healed,” Golub said. “I feel stronger every day. I am so grateful for what I have. The people at the hospital were incredible. I am a miracle.”

By MARC STEWART – Coeur d’Alene Press