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Sondra DeMichele

"My therapists were wonderful and encouraging, but most importantly, they treated me with integrity and were honest with me."

It was a typical October afternoon for Sondra DeMichele back in 2011 when a headache hit that was so extreme she lost consciousness. Unbeknownst to her and her family, she had a cerebral arteriovenous malformation (AVM)—an abnormal connection between the arteries and veins in the brain—in her right temple that burst. She was rushed to Westchester Medical Center where Michael Stiefel, M.D., Ph.D., director of Cerebrovascular & Endovascular Surgery, closed off the blood vessels and removed them. Sondra was in a coma for three weeks after surgery. When it came time to move to a rehabilitation facility, Dr. Stiefel recommended she be taken to Burke.

Upon arrival, she had no idea where she was as the last thing she remembered was that she was in her kitchen when the headache struck. Luckily, her family was by her side and explained to her what had happened and the rehabilitation she needed to do to get back on her feet, literally. “In my head, I thought I could run but I really couldn’t,” Sondra recalled. “I had to re-learn how to walk, talk, everything. Thankfully, I had the care I received at Burke that gave me a good foundation to get better.

“My therapists—Sandra, Katie and Lindsay—were very considerate and let me know that I would get there but it would take time. They were wonderful and encouraging, but most importantly, they treated me with integrity and were honest with me,” she said.

With her determination to get better and the support of her family and the Burke's Brain Injury Program staff, Sondra was able to complete her inpatient rehabilitation therapy before the end of November 2011. Today, Sondra is more than back on her feet. She’s active and walking/jogging at least four miles day