Joanette Pete McClain, a 2022 Forsyth Go Red Woman, has been a leader in nursing for over 50 years, and a former nursing professor in the Division of Nursing at Winston-Salem State University. She often taught future nurses “that their best bedside manners were characteristics that they should never leave home without.” In September of 2019, she had an opportunity to see if they listened to her, because she became the patient when she suffered a right-sided stroke in her sleep.
“I woke up around 5 a.m. on September 5, 2019, but when I tried to get out of bed, I immediately fell to the floor,” said Dr. McClain. Being the determined woman that she is, she continued to the bathroom by crawling on the floor, but soon realized she couldn’t stand up. She yelled to her husband, “I think I’ve had a stroke. I cannot move anything on my right side.” Her husband immediately called 911.
Within minutes medical responders were at her home. They asked Joanette several simple questions, and even though she knew the answers, she couldn’t answer them. “Once I got to the hospital, bright lights were shown in my eyes, followed by instructions for me to squeeze their hands, follow their fingers from side to side and up and down – none of which I could do consistently,” recalls Dr. McClain. She was x-rayed, completed an MRI, a CAT scan, and multiple blood tests. All of which revealed that her diagnosis of a stroke was correct. “Words that are so familiar to a nursing professional, all of a sudden seemed so confusing. I realized then that the diagnosis and the person they were talking about pertained to me, and not to some other patient,” said Dr. McClain.
With a great deal of assistance from the staff, over the next 30 days, she learned how to walk again. I learned to strengthen my right side so that I could write and walk again. “During inpatient intensive physical therapy for six hours a day, I participated in every imaginable physical, emotional, cognitive, and playful activity that one could think of, all in the name of training my brain to take me back to my pre-stroke condition,” said Dr. McClain. She often commented to the staff in the Rehabilitation Center that they needed to hang a sign that said “never enough.” Because no matter how many repetitions of an activity you performed, they wanted to see if you could do one more? During therapy, she was not allowed to use supportive devices such as a walker, crutches, nor a cane to help with her mobility and balance. She learned that after a stroke, one’s brain will try to take the body back to its original position and by the end of her impatient stay, she was able to use her right hand and walk again without assistive devices.
“After an additional three months of outpatient therapy, most of my mobility fine and gross motor skills were back. Today, there is just a small residual that reminds me that on my right side I suffered a stroke,” said Dr. McClain. “However, one of those small reminders is that it does keep me from fully enjoying my favorite line dance, the ‘Wobble!’ But, I am working on getting rid of it!”
Once Joanette left the inpatient and outpatient therapy settings, she realized that she had to make some adjustments in some of her daily work and hobby activities. “I had to reduce my stress and physical activity levels. So now instead of planting a two-acre garden, I made planter boxes for my deck. I enjoy my hobby of gardening in a much smaller space,” she shared.
Dr. McClain overcame her stroke, got back up, and hasn’t looked back. She now provides her professional expertise and support to the WSSU Behavioral Health and Community Mobile Unit (BeHCU), leading by example and teaching the importance of good heart health.
Joanette Pete McClain is a 2022 Forsyth Go Red Woman, sharing her story in our community to help other women prevent heart disease and stroke. Novant Health is proud to be the American Heart Association’s “Life is Why” and “Go Red for Women” sponsor in Forsyth County, celebrating, supporting and encouraging women to put their health first wherever they
may be in their journey.