Traumatic brain injury
Austin Carvallo, an active 21-year-old economics student from Austin, Texas, found his life taking an unexpected turn when he faced a brain abscess that left him paralyzed and struggling with cognitive difficulties.
Austin's world was turned upside down when he suddenly lost the ability to speak coherently and experienced difficulty standing. Rushed to a local hospital in Hays, his condition deteriorated rapidly. "I don't remember the first couple of weeks of what happened," Austin shared. "My friends rushed me to the hospital because I wasn't making sense to them."
Under the care of skilled medical professionals, Austin underwent two critical surgeries, including a craniotomy, to wash his brain and eliminate bacteria. After he stabilized from his frequent seizures, he transferred to Dell Hospital's ICU for further treatment. There, he began regaining some independence, even managing to brush his own teeth. Seeking to progress further, he transitioned to Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation (BSWIR) - Lakeway.
Austin's challenges were immense – cognitive difficulties, right-side paralysis and even basic tasks like dressing and speaking were daunting. However, with the guidance of therapists, Austin began his rehabilitation journey.
"[My therapist] showed me how to walk and jog, which was particularly helpful," Austin recalled. He listed his favorite activities. “The workouts with throwing the ball back and forth, doing the star obstacle course, running, cooking, balance exercises and working with Jasper, the therapy dog.”
He also mentioned, "My occupational therapist had me playing games and laughing, which was great. I was word finding and finding the definitions of words until something clicked and then I started progressing more and more. I got into texting and typing and then it all came flowing back.”
Through tailored therapies, Austin achieved his goals one by one – walking, speaking and even enjoying regular foods after a successful swallow study. “I started being able to get dressed completely on my own. I was only able to say "yeah" over and over, but I began to expand my vocabulary. Speech therapy really sped that up. I was originally tube fed. I was upgraded to pureed food with nectar-thick liquids and was eventually upgraded to regular foods after a swallow study here in inpatient.”
As Austin's rehabilitation journey continued, he experienced frequent and empowering milestone moments. He recalled his “ah-ha” moments when he was asking for more advanced exercises, carried his walker around because he didn’t need it and when he got his IV removed.
With his inpatient stay drawing to a close, Austin looked forward to resuming his studies at Texas State, running and indulging in his favorite local eatery. Although challenges remained, Austin's spirit remained strong as he planned to continue his therapies in the Day Neuro Program.
As he prepared to leave BSWIR - Lakeway, Austin reflects on his rehabilitation experience and the message that he leaves to others in a similar situation: "Take your time. Be patient. It's going to be ok. Enjoy your experience and your time here as much as possible. Get the most out of it. You'll be home soon.”