Published on November 16, 2020

Regaining function after a stroke with MaineGeneral’s help

If Mark Wilson’s life was a novel, it would have two chapters and a very promising epilogue.

The first chapter would include everything from birth through July 8, 2020; the second would start on July 9 – the day he suffered a devastating stroke that threatened his life and turned his world and his family’s upside down.

Mark WilsonAnd the promising epilogue?

That literary element is made possible by the expert rehabilitation care Mark received from Dr. Emese Simon and the team of physical, occupational and speech therapists and nursing staff at the inpatient Physical Rehabilitation Unit at the Alfond Center for Health (ACH) in Augusta.

“Dr. Simon and the staff have been wonderful,” said Mark’s wife Carol. “I wouldn’t have wanted him to go anywhere else – and I don’t think Mark would have either; he’s been happy here.”

Adjusting to the unexpected

According to Carol, her husband has never been much of a “sitter.”

The 56-year-old Skowhegan man was operations manager at Sappi North America in Skowhegan, where he ran two departments and has been employed for more than 30 years. He would work a full day at the mill and then go home to work on any number of projects.

His active lifestyle, coupled with no family history, made his stroke even more surprising.

Carol said Mark never complained of any symptoms, nor did she notice anything out of the ordinary until she found him collapsed on the floor after she had gotten out of bed to check on her two visiting grandsons. She would learn in time that the stroke was caused by a dissected carotid artery that sent a blood clot to Mark’s brain.

“I told my grandsons afterward that if I hadn’t heard them making noise, I never would have found Mark in time,” she said.

Journey to recovery

Mark was first seen at Redington-Fairview General Hospital in Skowhegan, transported by ambulance to the ACH where he was stabilized and then taken to Maine Medical Center in Portland. He was in intensive care for three days before increasing brain swelling required surgery to help alleviate the pressure. When he was healthy enough to be moved to a rehabilitation facility, Carol and her family chose MaineGeneral’s Physical Rehabilitation Unit.

“That was the best choice we’ve made throughout this journey,” she said.

Just days into the start of his rehabilitation, Mark’s white blood cell count spiked, requiring a return to Maine Med, where the medical staff tried to identify the cause.

“I didn’t even know what was happening (because I was so sick),” he said.

After a battery of imaging and other diagnostic tests, medical staff determined that the problem was caused by a highly infected gallbladder. Given Mark’s fragile medical condition, the best option was to drain the gallbladder to control the infection. After several days, Mark returned to the ACH to restart his rehab. His progress since then – with only a few bumps along the way – has been truly remarkable.

“When he came here, he couldn’t move or talk,” Carol said, on the eve of Mark’s discharge to go home. “Now he’s walking, moving and talking – and it’s all been due to MaineGeneral’s therapists and how they’ve motivated him to get to the point where he is now.”

“He has thrived under the care of Dr. Simon, his therapists and Mark’s motivation to do what he needs to do,” she added. “The therapists worked with him every day at a pace he could do and one which they were comfortable with him doing. And they built on those pieces every day.”

Carol acknowledges that Mark being able to receive excellent rehabilitation care close to home – care that her family was involved in to support him – made a tremendous difference.

“I’m here every day and Mark has welcomed having family here during his rehabilitation. And the staff has been very welcoming to having us here to help him,” she said. “Because he’s done so well with his rehab and recovery, I keep thinking that his engineering mind has really helped him. And it will only get better once he gets home.”

To learn more about MaineGeneral’s Physical Rehabilitation Unit team and the services they provide, please visit