SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — May Is National Stroke Awareness. Besides knowing the risk factors, it’s also important to understand the rehabilitation options that help many stroke survivors enjoy long-term recovery. A New York City woman is proof that receiving the right aftercare can help you regain your independence.

Traveling alone to visit family in Scranton is nothing new for 78-year-old Erika Smeraldi of New York City. But just three years ago, this native of Switzerland who speaks several languages suffered a serious blow to her independence. One day, she suddenly struggled to speak or even read. She had suffered a stroke. She reached out to her son, Dr. Alessandro Smeraldi MD, who lives in Scranton with his wife and two children. Ms. Smeraldi said, “I couldn’t come out the name of the children and that’s why I cried. I started to cry.”

About a week after her condition became stable, Erika’s son wanted his mom close to him. “I was able to call people that I knew and say could we get her to where I know she will get good care and get taken care of,” said Dr. Smeraldi. Erika was transferred to Allied Services Rehab Hospital in Scranton and began speech therapy.

She worked with therapists like Allied Services Director of Speech Pathology Marie Monahan. Soon transferred to Allied Terrace Assisted Living, Erika put in months of speech and mobility rehabilitation. Allied Services Rehabilitation Hospital Medical Director & Stroke Rehab Program Physician Program Manager Dr. Michael Wolk, MD said, “She also had balance difficulties. There was also a little bit of impulsivity where she didn’t really realize some of the deficits and she would just go and that would be a safety concern.”

Erika worked with sophisticated tools like the Bioness Integrated Therapy System, or BITS for short. “I wanted to get better. I did everything possible to learn, to write.” Less than a year after her stroke, Erika returned to the life she loves in New York City. Dr. Smeraldi said, “I am very happy that she is happy and that she is back to doing everything she wants to do.”

For someone who knows multiple languages, Erika shares this one word for fellow stroke survivors on regaining their lives. “Practice, practice, practice. That’s the best to do it.”