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A year after she suffered a hemorrhagic stroke at the gym, Mary is back to fitness

The 75-year-old gym-goer relied on her therapists’ help to recover after a frightening time.

Blonde haired woman in purple tie-dye shirt posing outside with her arms crossed.
Mary came back from a stroke stronger and fitter than ever.

Mary Coyne, 75, was in the middle of her regular weights workout when she noticed—but didn’t feel—her water bottle slip from her left hand, crashing to the floor. She had always been quite active, working out three times a week to stay fit and healthy. So, when the water bottle just fell out of her hand, she was perplexed.

“I didn’t feel a thing,” the Plainview, NY, resident said. “It hit the floor with a big noise and I was pretty embarrassed. But I figured I must have just bumped it into something. I picked the bottle up to move to the next machine and it just fell out of my hand again. I couldn’t understand what was happening.”

At that moment, one of the trainers at the gym noticed that Mary was having difficulties, and came over to ask Mary if she was feeling all right.

“I, of course, said I was fine,” Mary recalled. “But she said I didn’t seem so well and looked like I was staggering a bit. I decided I would just go home.”

After escorting Mary to the locker room, the trainer called the gym manager in to check on her. The manager immediately noticed that the side of Mary’s face was drooping, suggesting that she was having a stroke. Mary said she was scared, but grateful that Syosset Hospital was so close by. The gym staff immediately called an ambulance to take her to the emergency department (ED).

After an initial examination and CT scan, the ED staff told Mary that she was experiencing a hemorrhagic stroke, a less common, and sometimes fatal, type of stroke that occurs when a blood vessel breaks and bleeds into the brain.

“They told me they needed to just wait and see whether the bleeding continued,” she said. “Luckily, when they did a second CT scan, the bleeding had stopped so I didn’t need surgery. But the damage had been done. The doctor asked me at one point to raise my left arm. I willed my left arm to lift but when I looked over, it was just sitting there, lying under the blanket. It was very, very frightening.”

Blonde haired woman in purple tank top and black pants in front of a gym mirror.
Last year, Mary couldn’t raise her left arm from the hospital bed. Now she can work out with ease.

The care team transferred Mary to the Stroke Center at North Shore University Hospital to recuperate. There, she was put under the care of neurologist Jeffrey M. Katz, MD, and started a course of physical and occupational therapy. From there, she was transferred to the inpatient acute rehab unit at Glen Cove Hospital to help her make further gains in function, followed by outpatient rehab. Before long, she said, she recovered feeling in the left side of her body.

“Luckily, my speech wasn’t affected,” she said. “But I did need quite a bit of therapy to get feeling back in my side. The entire team, from my doctor to the therapists, were just amazing. They were so patient with me and so calming. I was very frightened, but they let me know that they’d seen my issues before, and I was doing exactly what I needed to do to get better. They answered all my questions and really encouraged me, and let me know I could do the work and get better. I really owe them a lot.”

Blonde haired woman in purple tank top sits on gym equipment.
Grateful for therapy that gave her mobility back, Mary’s enjoying her active life.

This all happened a year ago. Now, Mary has nearly fully recovered. She has full function in her left hand and side, and outside of some tingling in her left foot, feels great. She’s back at the gym, lifting weights and enjoying Zumba classes several times a week. She plays golf, volunteers teaching English as a second language and spends as much time as she can out and about with her grandchildren. It’s a full and active life—and she credits her care team at all three Northwell hospitals for helping her get back to it.

“The promptness and coordination of care, and the wonderful therapists really made all the difference. And Dr. Katz is just amazing, too,” she said. “I’m very, very lucky to have come through this the way I did. I’m so grateful.”