Stroke Patient’s Recovery Music to Everyone’s Ears

Inova Mount Vernon Hospital rehab team helps a stroke patient back to the dais and his congregation 

Reverend Angel Martinez and his wife, Reverend Lydia Rodriguez
Reverend Angel Martinez and his wife, Reverend Lydia Rodriguez.

Several members of the Inova Mount Vernon Hospital (IMVH) Outpatient Bridge and Neuro Rehabilitation team listened as Reverend Angel M. Martínez delivered a sermon. Then, without missing a beat, Martínez reached for his guitar and accompanied his wife, Reverend Lydia Rodriguez, in joyful song.

It’s something Martínez and Rodriguez had done so many times before at the Wesley United Methodist Church in Alexandria, VA, where the couple serves as associate pastor and senior pastor respectively. But this time was different. Very different.

In February 2019, Martínez, 67 years old, suffered a hemorrhagic stroke, which occurs when a blood vessel in the brain breaks or ruptures. After receiving swift emergency care at Inova Mount Vernon Hospital followed by proper treatment, the bleeding in the patient’s brain was under control. Martínez then began the long rehabilitation process, first with the IMVH inpatient rehab program and eventually, the IMVH outpatient rehab team. “At first the left side of my body was totally paralyzed,” Martínez recalls. “From the beginning, one of my goals was to play the guitar again. I wanted to join my wife in song during worship services.” 

He also hoped to someday once again deliver sermons to his congregation, which was absolutely possible but would require a strong commitment on the patient’s part. The stroke left Martínez with a mild to moderate cognitive deficit affecting his ability to learn novel information as well as focus on multiple tasks and shift his attention accordingly. “Angel and I worked a lot on that,” explains Lisa Bamberger, MS, CCC-SLP, speech therapist on the IMVH Outpatient Bridge and Neuro Rehabilitation team. “In order to write a sermon, he needed to relearn how to process what he read in the Bible, remember what he read and then put his thoughts together in a sermon. So that’s what we practiced, over and over.”

All the while, Martínez continued working with his physical therapist and occupational therapist, slowly but surely regaining his balance, his ability to walk and his talented finger work on the guitar. “The rehab staff’s dedication, devotion and inspiration motivated me. Even during the most difficult parts of my journey, they helped me believe that I could recover,” Martínez says.

The IMVH rehab team always believed Martínez would reach every goal, although Bamberger remembers a “magic moment” when belief turned into reality. “The team worked with Angel for four months and about midway through the program, it was as if a light bulb went on. Angel was with me—more engaged during our sessions. It was an important turning point,” she says.

From there, Martínez followed a straight path forward, and today he’s back by his wife’s side in church. “I am blessed to have my husband beside me, and we are so grateful to Inova—beyond the rehab team,” Rodriguez says. “Every person who touched my husband’s life after his stroke showed such love and dedication. They exceeded our expectations of what a hospital is and that made a big difference in how quickly my husband recuperated.”

The Bridge Program at Inova Mount Vernon Hospital offers day treatment for those recovering from acquired brain injury. Find a hospital-based physical therapy program or outpatient physical therapy center

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