Jane Everett ,70, a hair stylist in Lenoir City, calls herself a stroke survivor.
“I like that word, because I survived,” said Everett, who attends the monthly Stroke Support Group at the Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center. “It doesn’t mean you don’t have frustration. But you want that in the past tense, and you want to move on. And I feel like we are [survivors], I really do.”
On the morning of April 21, 2014, Everett collapsed in her garage after buckling one of her granddaughters, four-year-old C.J., into her car seat. Her husband, Charlie Everett, called 911, while C.J. held her grandmother’s hand.
Unable to talk or move, Jane Everett had one thought. “I thought, I am not leaving these babies and my daughter and husband,” she said. “I didn’t know you could make a decision like that, but at that moment I did.”
The Everetts are no strangers to medical emergencies. In 1981 Charlie Everett had a diving accident and broke his C6 vertebra. He is paralyzed from the chest down, although he has use of his hands and arms. He learned to use a wheelchair for mobility at the Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center, which had opened only three years before his accident.
“He just had such courage, he really did,” said Jane Everett of her husband of 52 years. “We have adjusted, although the first 10 years were tough, because he was such an athletic man. Now I’m glad we’ve made it.”
After her stroke, Everett received emergency medical care at Parkwest Medical Center, which stabilized her and gave her the clot-busting drug tPA. Doctors then sent her to Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center to have the blood clot removed, a highly specialized treatment.
After a week in the hospital, there was no question about where Everett would go for therapy: Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center.
“When I got there my left side was completely paralyzed. I couldn’t walk, couldn’t move my left arm at all, or my left hand. It was drawn up to my chest,” said Everett.
“The first morning out, they got me up and into the shower,” said Everett. “They start teaching you how to take care of yourself immediately.
“At Patricia Neal, you have therapy five hours a day, and it’s all parts of your body and your mind and emotions, and your attitude,” said Everett. “Those therapists were phenomenal. They encouraged you, no matter what.”
With Jane Everett being so sick, Charlie Everett stepped into the caregiver role.
“My daughter and Charlie both have been so compassionate and caring and helpful. He took it for granted I would always be here to take care of him, and so did I.”
Having a husband in a wheelchair put things in perspective, she said.
“I’d look at my husband and think I’m so upset because my arm isn’t working, but what’s it like to wake up and nothing works from the neck down? It’s given me a lot more compassion for his situation.”
After three weeks at Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center and a year of continuing outpatient therapy at Parkwest Therapy Center closer to her home, Everett has begun to do some hair styling work again. Her salon, Hair Originals, is in her basement. Everett’s assistant and a friend who is a retired hair stylist kept the business going while she recovered.
“I have loved every moment of my career. I love doing hair,” said Everett. “It lets me create, and I have relationships with these people. A lot of my clients were with me when I moved here 35 years ago. I miss that camaraderie, that hands-on designing.”
While still working to regain full dexterity in her hand, Everett has found a new way of working in the field. For reasons she doesn’t know, Everett’s hair fell out in clumps after her stroke. It’s beginning to grow back, but she bought and wears a wig. Today she helps other women with medical hair loss find wigs that look good on them. She also sells fun clip-on extensions, bangs and clip-in colored streaks as well.
“I feel like it’s a way for me to be able to carry on in my career without as much physical stress to the body,” she said. “I also think there’s something about wanting to give back to people. I have felt a lot of frustration and fear, and I think if you’ve been there you have more of an understanding.
“I’m not sure something good comes out of everything, but I do believe that what we classify as bad or tragic can sometimes be the best challenges of our lives. I think we have that choice,” said Everett.
“We are so fortunate in Knoxville to have the Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center. They are so professional, all the way. That’s what gets you to where I am today,” she said.