Giving up was never an option

Katrin Haberzettl (cereneo staff member) interviews Claudia Ramstein (patient): I met Ms Ramstein during her second stay with us in Hertenstein in May 2021. Her fate touched me and I kept thinking of her, at the same time she impressed me a lot and I wanted to learn more about the path of this extraordinary woman.


Claudia Ramstein is 42 years old, divorced and mother of two children (7 and 12 years old) with whom she lives in the canton of Zurich. Ms Ramstein has a congenital heart defect and has a pacemaker since the age of 14, with which she led a completely normal life. In March 2020, the pacemaker had to be replaced.


Ms Ramstein, why did you come to rehab?

In March 2020, I had to undergo an operation at the USZ. During the operation I suffered a stroke. At first the operating team thought I was too heavily anaesthetised because I didn’t wake up after the operation, but after various measures didn’t help to wake me up, the doctors determined in a CT scan that I had had a stroke.


How badly were you affected by the stroke?

After 2 or 3 days I woke up in the intensive care unit in the USZ. I couldn’t speak and was paralysed on the right side. I didn’t even realise at first that I couldn’t speak. I understood everything when someone spoke to me and also responded, but as no one reacted to my answers, I realised that I could not form any sounds. Then at a visit — about 5 days after the surgery — I formed my first sound. After about a week, I went from the USZ to cereneo for rehab.


What did that mean for you and your family? What help did you get?

My 12-year-old daughter thought I was dead. My children couldn’t visit me because of the first Corona lockdown. My brother made it possible for me to see my children via a video call. I was able to talk to them giving signs with my left hand so they knew I was still there. My parents and brother took very loving care of them during this time.


What helped you the most during rehab?

I had a lot of therapy every day, especially the speech therapy was enormously important for me because I couldn’t speak. With Corona, however, it was very difficult. Because the speech therapist wore a mask, I couldn’t see her lip movements and I didn’t make any progress at first. It was only when the speech therapist took off the mask and I saw how she moved her lips that I made progress in speaking very quickly. I had speech therapy training twice a day and also did exercises for myself.

In addition, I had intensive movement therapy and even then I went on the treadmill myself to walk very slowly.

The environment of cereneo directly at the lake between the mountains has a very calming effect, that grounded me and at the same time gave me a lot of strength.


Where did you draw your energy from?

I wanted to be there for my children again as soon as possible and the therapists were super supportive, but I was also very ambitious and motivated.

The nurses were always helpful and there for me when I had a low and needed some cheering up.

I had two options — to fight or to give up and for me there was only fighting!


How long were you in rehab and in what condition did you leave rehab?

My first stay in rehab at cereneo was during the first Corona lockdown from 6th of March to 29th of May 2020. I was able to walk and talk again. Nevertheless, I was afraid of having to cope with everything on my own again. Taking care of the children, being there for them, cooking, simply coping with everyday life. Before I left the clinic, I cooked for the cereneo team and the patients together with another patient. That was my test to see if I could do it at home. It worked out well!

In the beginning, my parents and brother supported me a lot at home. But I quickly got a grip on everyday life again. I just still get tired very quickly.


What’s next for you now?

How and whether I can return to my everyday work is still open. I have made so much progress thanks to the therapy and my second stay at cereneo in May 2021 has shown me that I can still improve. It just takes time.

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