At the age of 25, Jose Rivera made a life-changing decision. He and his wife Imelda decided to leave their native Puerto Rico for better opportunities on the United States mainland. Jose earned a degree in Veterinary Science and put his love of animals to work as an ICU Surgical Vet Technician. Now in his 50s, Jose is an avid cyclist and runner, logging multiple 5k and 10k races per month, Jose never imagined he would find himself at the crossroads of another life-changing event.
After dinner one evening, Jose and Imelda were discussing plans for a home renovation project when suddenly his speech became slurred and his face began to droop. His wife, who is a physician, knew immediately that something was seriously wrong. She called 911 just as Jose passed out.
He was rushed to the ER at Medical City Denton where doctors confirmed he had stroke caused by a brain aneurysm. He was placed in an induced coma and a tracheostomy was performed to support his breathing. After 10 days in the ICU, Jose began to show some signs of improvement, but a full recovery was still a long way off.
For more than a month, Jose worked tirelessly on rehabbing his body physically and building his endurance, balance, and ability to perform daily life tasks. By the time he completed his inpatient stay, he was able to walk with a walker, but still had some cognitive challenges. Jose, however, had bigger goals in mind: He wanted to get back to biking, running, and working with his beloved animals again.
That’s when Jose turned to the Day Neuro Program at Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation – Frisco (BSWIR-Frisco), a unique care setting designed to help prepare patients who require extensive neurological rehab return to work and an independent lifestyle.
Jose’s priority was to get rid of his walker. Each day, he worked tirelessly with his physical therapists (PT) daily on balance exercises and incorporated mental and physical tasks with walking. Jose reached a milestone when he was able to maintain his balance without assistance.
“Shelby, my PT, pushed me but in a great way. She never let me pity myself.”
Jose soon retired his walker and as his balance continued to improve, he asked his PT if he could get out on his bicycle. Six-mile rides turned into 11-mile rides and with every small victory, Jose gained greater confidence and motivation to keep going. During recreational therapy, Jose would tend to the garden in our courtyard and would even use vegetables he helped grow to make homemade pizza for his entire therapy group. To improve his cognition and memory, Jose’s speech-language pathologist incorporated computer-based activities into his treatment. He admits he didn’t particularly enjoy one of the games at first, but soon came to appreciate its value in improving his memory and helping him accomplish complex tasks, two important skills needed to return to his job.
By the time Jose completed the Day Neuro Program at BSWIR-Frisco, he was biking, running, gardening and ready not only to get back to work, but to tackle the home renovation project he and his wife were planning.