On the morning of Oct. 14, Susan was browsing for good deals at local yard sales. She came home to find Lou unresponsive in his favorite chair.
Although he survived, the stroke left Lou unable to speak or walk. Once his medical condition was stabilized, doctors recommended he immediately begin rehabilitation.
After speaking with nurses and family members, Susan said Tidelands Waccamaw Rehabilitation Hospital was clearly the best choice, despite its distance from their North Carolina home.
Widely regarded for the quality of its care, the Murrells Inlet hospital offers an intensive multidisciplinary approach involving physical, occupational and speech therapy. It is the region’s only inpatient rehabilitation hospital and has earned prestigious accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities.
“Everybody was right,” Susan Pullen said. “It was the greatest place he could have gone. The whole team treated him like family.”
Lou Pullen stayed in the hospital for three weeks, Susan said. She drove two hours roundtrip every day to be with him and support his recovery.
“She was always in his room working with him,” said Sarah Vanderbosch, Lou’s Tidelands Health occupational therapist. “She was just a huge support system for him.”
After being unable to use his legs at all when he arrived, Lou left Tidelands Waccamaw Rehabilitation Hospital able to move with the help of a walker.
“He made incredible progress,” said Kaitlin Cuske, his physical therapist. “He went from not walking or being able to stand, to being able to go up and down a full flight of stairs and walk 200 feet.
“Susan was there giving him cues the whole way. She was his cheerleader.”
Lou also regained some of his speech, said Beth Barnhill, his speech language pathologist. Susan’s name and the phrase “I love you” were among the first words he learned.
Now at home, he’s benefiting from outpatient rehabilitation and again enjoying the comfort of his favorite chair.
The incident, of course, has profoundly impacted the routines of their relationship. Lou, at least for now, relies heavily on Susan for help with day-to-day activities.
Although their lives have changed in so many ways, in some ways they remain the same. Even a casual observer takes note of their continued affection for each other, evidenced in a passing touch or loving glance.
Although he is still working to improve his language skills, Lou can sing profoundly well. It’s a new activity the Pullens share together. Each night, as Susan takes down the American flag outside their home for the evening, she and Lou sing the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
“America the Beautiful” is another favorite song, though “You Are my Sunshine” ranks as perhaps the most fitting.