Jim and Patty’s vacation to New Mexico may be their most memorable trip ever, but not for the reasons one might expect.

Three days into their visit to Albuquerque, Jim had a massive hemorrhagic stroke and was treated in intensive care for the next two weeks at the University of New Mexico Hospital. To help Jim and Patty get home as quickly as possible, Jim was transitioned to Kindred Hospital Albuquerque where the care team helped him become stable enough to fly to a rehabilitation center near his home in Fort Worth, Texas.

An air ambulance took Jim to Texas Rehabilitation Hospital Fort Worth, where he would begin the next phase of his steep road to recovery due to the challenges presented by his stroke.

A Stroke Left Jim in Intensive Care But Rehabilitation Helped Him Walk Again 600

“He had a brain injury, a lot of neglect and weakness on one side of his body, and a lot of deficits as far as his communication and swallowing,” said Dr. William Bridges, the Medical Director at Texas Rehabilitation.

Alishia Schmitt, the Assistant Director of Therapy at Texas Rehabilitation, said that at first, Jim needed multiple staff to assist him with the most basic activities. He would need intensive focus in physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy.

For Jim, the number one goal was to regain his mobility, which he said he equates with his freedom.

“He was a very determined he was going to walk out of here,” said Sandy Goff, CRRN at Texas Rehab and one of Jim’s nurses. “And he said it over and over: ‘I'm going to walk out of here.’”

Jim’s wife Patty said he made it clear early on what he thought was the quickest route out of the hospital.

“Jim is very stubborn, and so when he told me he was going to walk out of there, I didn't question it for a minute,” she said. “The team at Texas Rehab was so focused on that, and everybody knew that was his goal.”

Dr. Bridges said that shared goal is typically how the patient’s treatment plan and outcomes converge.

“I think that's our goal with every person we treat – to really try to establish what their goals are for themselves,” he said.

The physical therapists focused on Jim’s left side, trying to train his body how to relearn what to do again to walk. Alishia even taped her right leg to Jim’s left leg to provide support while helping him mimic the movements necessary for walking. Over the course of three weeks, they made tremendous progress.

Jim says the therapists pushed him along and made it possible for him to do exactly what he said he would do – walk out of the facility.

“It was fabulous – felt like I'd achieved something,” he said. “I could actually just walk out of there. Alishia came on her day off to help me walk out of there. I was glad to share that moment with her, because she was the reason I was walking out of there.”

More than a year later, Patty says Jim’s recovery has progressed much further. She and Jim credit Texas Rehab and its caregivers for helping him turn the corner.

“I know for a fact if it weren't for the training and the work that he did at Texas Rehabilitation Hospital, he would not have the foundation to have excelled as much as he has and to be experiencing such an amazing recovery,” said Patty.

Alishia said patients like Jim are the perfect example of both the challenge and the benefit in working in rehabilitation services.

“It's taking someone at the worst point in their life, where everything's been taking away from him, and they have no idea why – and achieving their goals on a daily basis and helping him get back to some sort of independent lifestyle,” she said.

If you are caring for a loved one and have healthcare questions, call 1.866.KINDRED (1.866.546.3733) to speak with a Registered Nurse 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We can walk you through care options in your area.

By Mike Ogburn