Published on May 13, 2019

woman riding horse

Back in the Saddle: Living Life Fully After Strokes

Fran Ligler, 67, almost didn’t get to achieve the biggest accomplishment of her career as a biochemist and bioengineer. Or continue her longtime hobby of competing in 50-mile endurance races with her horse, Synuous. Or watch her seven grandchildren grow.

That’s because in late December 2011, Fran suffered two strokes that left her unable to see, talk or walk.

“It was absolutely terrifying,” Fran recalled. “My family came to visit me on New Year’s Eve, not knowing whether I’d survive.”

After receiving acute care for her strokes, Fran checked into Adventist HealthCare Rehabilitation in Rockville. For two weeks, expert doctors and specialized therapists helped retrain her mind and body through activities, such as reading flashcards, sounding out words, holding a pen and climbing stairs.

Fran’s recovery progressed well during six weeks of outpatient therapy. She continued her prescribed exercises until she succeeded in reading and even driving again, several months later.

“The therapists truly gave me my life back,” said Fran, now a biomedical engineering professor at North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill after a 30-year career at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. “Everyone who cared for me was so knowledgeable and compassionate.”

Five years after her strokes, Fran was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for her groundbreaking research on optical biosensors that detect infectious diseases, biological warfare agents, pathogens in food and other dangerous toxins.

“Sometimes I still can’t believe I was able to recover from such a debilitating illness,” Fran said. To express her gratitude for the clinical team’s help and outstanding care she received, Fran made a gift to Adventist HealthCare Rehabilitation.

Thanks to the stroke experts at Adventist HealthCare Rehabilitation, Fran Ligler can compete again in endurance horse racing.

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