Bruce's Story

Patient Bruce Tomlinson after rehabilitation.

Cardiac | stroke

Harold “Bruce” Tomlinson was being treated for stage three melanoma when a routine CT scan revealed an aortic aneurysm, an abnormal bulge in the major blood vessel that carries blood from his heart to his body. Bruce’s doctor immediately referred him to Baylor Scott & White The Heart Hospital – Plano where he underwent successful open-heart surgery to repair the aneurysm and replace two clogged arteries.

Four days later, however, Bruce had a stroke. The 56-year-old husband, father and grandfather was suddenly faced with mobility, speech and memory issues – in addition to his cardiac needs. He was soon cleared by his medical team to go home and take the next steps in his recovery. Bruce wanted to stay within the Baylor Scott & White continuum of care and chose the Day Neuro Program at Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation (BSWIR) – Frisco. This would allow him to participate in both his cardiac and stroke rehabilitation at the same time.

Bruce’s main goal upon admission to the Day Neuro Programwas to “get back to normal. I just want to get back to myself,” he said, adding that he hoped to return to work as an insurance claims processor. He knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but he was determined. He leaned on the hospital’s team of neuro-rehabilitation specialists to help him improve his strength, skills and mobility. “I trusted them to teach me what I had to learn.”

His first lesson was to regain the mental toughness needed to push himself forward and maintain a positive outlook, which he did by working with the Day Neuro program’s rehabilitation counselor.

Barely able to go from sitting to standing without getting winded when he began, Bruce worked with his physical therapists to build strength, balance and endurance. They carefully monitored his blood pressure, heart rate, weight and other factors, shared any concerns with Bruce’s cardiologist and helped coordinate any adjustments in medications.

Bruce also focused on improving his speech and communication skills with the help of his team’s speech language pathologist. He benefitted from increasingly challenging exercises and tasks that also helped his breathing capacity.

His occupational therapists provided Bruce with the strategies to perform every day activities more efficiently, helping to conserve his energy. They collaborated with the recreation therapists to incorporate Bruce’s personal interests into his program, particularly his love of woodworking. Bruce went on community outings with members of his team to a local lumber store where he purchased supplies to build bird houses. He expertly assembled them, which helped to sharpen his fine motor and cognitive skills, and placed them in the BSWIR – Frisco courtyard.

Bruce achieved all this while also participating in cardiac rehab three days a week.

With rehabilitation now behind him, Bruce is looking forward to slowly ramping up to full-time employment, resuming his many hobbies, including golf and photography, and spending time with his family. “My wife has been here for me every step of the way. She even took a month off from work to be home with me... to make sure I was doing what I should be doing and eating a heart healthy diet.”

When asked about his rehab experience, Bruce noted, “The team always has the patient in mind and is willing to go the extra mile. [The therapists] make you feel comfortable, taking the time to explain everything, to help you understand why. I’m just so grateful for the care I received.”