Ahwatukee therapist helps injured brains heal | Community orientation

When Jessica Grady was studying for a pre-med degree at Miami University in Ohio, her grandfather suffered a stroke.

Along with other family members, she rushed to Georgia to be by his side.

It changed his grandfather’s life – and Grady’s.

“I was able to witness his neurorehabilitation and recovery from his stroke,” Grady recalls. “I also saw how his speech therapist could spend a lot more time with him than the doctor.”

She reset her goal: she would become a speech therapist. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree and enrolled at Arizona State University to pursue a Master of Science degree.

She was hired as a speech therapist at the renowned Barrow Neurological Institute’s Transitional Neurorehabilitation Center – which she considered an honor.

“Starting my career and working at the Barrow Neurological Institute has really changed my career. It was a competitive and coveted position in my field,” she recalls.

“I have been able to work with some of the best therapists and neuropsychologists in the industry, and many of my patients have been cared for by some of the best surgeons in the world.

“We brought in patients from other states and came in from other countries for treatment; they moved for months because of Barrow’s reputation.

Grady, who earned her professional license in Arizona in 1998, had always seen patients outside of her job, but decided to leave Barrow last year after nearly 20 years to pursue her full-time private practice.

The year has been busy.

“I have seen many patients in the Ahwatukee area, from students from Desert Vista who have been in car accidents or have learning disabilities, ADHD or autism, to other members of the community who have had strokes or brain tumors or progressive illnesses such as dementia,” she says.

Grady said she realizes that many people don’t know what speech therapy encompasses – which she calls understandable because “the field of speech therapy is quite broad.”

“People tend to specialize in the pediatric population, or more from adolescence to adulthood. Second, even with adults, some people specialize in voice or dialect for example, and some have other specialties,” she explained.

“At first I was fascinated by the field of neurorehabilitation, and the brain in general, so I specialize in brain injury; whether they are traumatic brain injuries – such as those resulting from car accidents and sports – or acquired brain injuries, such as those resulting from tumors or strokes.

“It really runs the gamut. I recently had a patient who suffered a brain injury from a golf club to the head.

It was an accident, she added.

“In my clinical practice, I also specialize in acquired brain injuries such as those resulting from strokes, aneurysms, and brain tumors, as well as other brain-related disorders such as executive functioning, autism spectrum disorders and learning disabilities, and even some progressive disorders such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Although there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, Grady said there are ways to help treat the symptoms.

“Dementia in all its forms is progressive. However, if you start therapy early, you can teach the patient and their family certain compensations to help them function, as well as provide cognitive exercises to preserve the skills they still have,” she said.

“My clinical practice focuses on the assessments and treatment of adolescents, adults and geriatric populations with speech, language, cognitive and neurological disorders,” she continued, highlighting her expertise in neurorehabilitation and cognitive rehabilitation.

“Additionally, I have specialized training to help with the process of returning to work or school after a brain injury or brain-related disorder.”

An Ahwatukee family is grateful for their expertise in helping patients recover from stroke after a prolonged experience of COVID-19.

Paul Petrillo, a personal trainer and manager of an aquarium fish store, suffered three blood clots in his brain.

For Paul and Lindsey Petrillo, COVID came with a vengeance last November. Although she recovered in a short time, her husband did not.

Lindsey remembers being sick for two weeks with cough, congestion, body aches and fever.

“It was sick days and days and Paul was just miserable. Nothing seemed to help; nothing made it better,” said Lindsey, a second-grade teacher at Kyrene de los Cerritos for 17 years.

After multiple emergency room visits, urgent care and rigorous home monitoring of his oxygen levels, he was admitted to hospital.

“Soon after, the symptoms he had been exhibiting: headaches, eye pain, severe confusion, slurred speech, showed evidence of a more serious problem. Paul was having a stroke. He was lucky to be in hospital when it happened,” she said.

He was airlifted by helicopter to St. Joseph’s Hospital and rushed to surgery. He spent six days in intensive care at Barrow and, through therapy, slowly regained movement in his nearly paralyzed right side.

He followed two weeks at Encompass Rehabilitation, where he made great progress physically.

“Paul relearned to swallow, eat, walk and perform basic tasks with half of his body lagging and not functioning properly,” Lindsey explained.

“It was an arduous process, but he went about it with a great sense of humor and even received the Patient of the Month award during his stay.”

He returned home on December 23 and enjoyed the vacation with his wife and daughter, Kari, 12. Residual issues from his stroke remained, including aphasia, a language-related disorder that can affect the way speech is phrased, affecting word finding and communication.

Grady began treating him and continues today.

“I see Paul to improve his word search, processing speed, multitasking, attention and focus,” Grady said. “He’s a competitive man and he continues to improve his aphasia and overall performance.”

Lindsey described Grady as “clearly intelligent, articulate with professional confidence”.

“As soon as you meet Jessica, you immediately have the feeling that everything is going to be fine. She met Paul on his level and designed a program specific to his needs using his strengths to help him be even more successful” , she recalls.

“My husband is not someone who is used to accepting or needing help and takes pride in his ability to lead his life as independently as possible. However, he has a drive incredible determination and determination and with the expert support Jessica provides, he is even amazing himself with his progress.Jessica reminds you that there is a reason the word ‘therapist’ is included in his title and makes you so Glad you called her in the first place.”

Helping those who have had brain injuries or issues return to work or school is part of what Grady offers in her clinical practice.

“I have specialized training to help with the process of returning to work or school after a brain injury or brain-related disorder,” she said.

Grady is a Certified Brain Injury Specialist and Vocational Rehabilitation Provider.

And she remains fascinated by

the brain.

“The brain,” she mused as she stared at a brain model in her office. “How magnificent.”

Among her favorite quotes, and the one she shares with some clients, is Kristen Butler:

“The strongest people I’ve met haven’t had an easier life…they’ve learned to create strength and happiness from tough places.”

“This one is not about the brain, but rather rehabilitation and overcoming obstacles. I have so many patients who have done and are doing just that,” said Grady, who has resided in Ahwatukee for nearly 20 years. “My patients inspire me every day.”

His practice, Cognitive Solutions, has patients ranging from middle schoolers to seniors.

Cognitive Solutions’ office is located at 15215 S. 48th St. and can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at 480-980-4969. Her website is JessicaGrady.org.

About Hector Hedgepeth

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