Editor's note: The following post is a human interest release from Jodie Daniels, assistant executive director of Chestnut Knoll.
BOYERTOWN, Pa., Aug. 14, 2012 – Don't be afraid to ask questions, Dene Liott said. And she knows the value of that advice.
Liott, who proudly admits she's 85½ years old, said she felt “a different type of fatigue” on May 27 and went to the Pottstown Memorial Medical Center (PMMC) emergency room. Upon arrival at the registration desk, she collapsed.
A medical diagnosis determined Liott suffered a stroke. The condition affected her left side and left her with a balance problem. After various tests including magnetic resonance imaging, she was taken for rehabilitation to Healthsouth in Reading.
"I went in on a gurney and came out with a walker," she said and smiled. “I can’t thank the staff at PMMC and Healthsouth enough for taking care of me. The therapists at Healthsouth really worked me hard and I thank them for it.”
The stroke opened Liott’s eyes to things that can happen every day to people. “It was such a blow to me—to find myself completely vulnerable," she said.
She recalled, a few days before the stroke, an ache on both sides of her jaw and in both of her arms. She said she never thought twice about the aches, but now believes they might have been signs. Liott said she hopes her experience can help others catch a stroke early.
She went home, where her daughter Donna Towers and partner Harry DeLorenzo took care of her, and she became an outpatient at Healthsouth in Pottstown. Soon after, Liott, founder, producer and host of the “Dene’s What’s Happening Live Show” that airs live at noon on Thursdays from PCTV, was back at work in the television studio.
“You have to ask questions if you want to understand what doctors are doing and why they’re doing it,” she said of being a patient. “Ask why something hurts. What will certain exercises do? Where was the blood clot? These are important questions you have to ask and you shouldn’t be afraid to do so.”
Liott seems a natural when it comes to understanding medical care, but she learned the hard way. She was an in-home caregiver for 15 years for two of her family members, including her mother who suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease, before she became involved in community service efforts.
Recently, she received the Sally Lee Community Service Award from the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania because of her volunteer work for the Pennsylvania Department Of Aging, Montgomery County Aging and Adults Services, Parkhouse Advisory Council and advocacy work for in-home care giving and aging issues. She was set to accept the honor when the stroke's aftermath threatened her plans.
That's when Chestnut Knoll Residential Care stepped in.
The community’s assistant executive director, Jodie Daniels, offered the Chestnut Knoll bus to transport Liott and her guests to the awards event on June 13 during the organization's Champions for Impact Awards Celebration in Philadelphia.
“The accommodations Chestnut Knoll gave were outstanding and the people that were with me are the kind of people you need in your life. I never knew I had so many people that cared about me,” said Liott. “Immediately upon learning about my stroke, Jodie Daniels visited me. Knowing that I was to receive the United Way award, she wanted to offer the services of the Chestnut Knoll van and take those that were accompanying me to the event.”
Liott's guests included Montgomery County Aging and Adult Services Executive Director Joanne Kline; Montgomery County Aging and Adult Services Advisory Council Chairwoman and prior PA Secretary of Aging Alma Jacobs; Pottstown Office MCAAS Supervisor Celeste Faux; PCTV Videographer Olivia Protheroe; Pastor for Caring Hospice Services Barry Moyer and his wife Kass; Liott’s daughter Donna, partner Harry, and Jodie Daniels.
Liott walked to the stage with her walker and stood to accept the award. She said, “I recently had a little bump in the road, but I am doing better.” She ended her presentation with, “You and I together every day for United Way.”
Daniels also invited Liott to Fox Rehab, a new program at Chestnut Knoll led by exercise physiologist Nick Banar, “who has a passion for keeping the residents physically fit,” Liott said.
“Chestnut Knoll offers such great programs,” said Liott. “So many people my age have nowhere to turn and are afraid to ask questions, but that’s where Chestnut Knoll can help. They provide a secure neighborhood for memory care and there are rehab and pain management services, along with many other services and events to get the residents and community involved.”
Today, Liott, a longtime volunteer and member of various community service boards and committees, continues to work as an advocate for the elderly. She said her goal is “to educate the aging population about the support offered by agencies and organizations in the community, such as Chestnut Knoll.”
Liott said her experiences, achievements, and overcoming the stroke are a testament to the cyclic rewards of helping others.
“We all need to remember, without love and compassion, humanity cannot survive,” Liott said. “I’ve been very, very fortunate. This is a gift. There is hope and I’m going to keep marching forward.”
For more about Dene Liott: To watch live streams of “Dene’s What’s Happening Shows” or for previous episodes and information, visit www.thepctvnetwork.com.