David Houk—a 64-year-old retired business owner, husband, grandfather, and avid fly fisherman, woke one day with the feeling that something wasn’t right. He felt like his right leg was asleep. Accustomed to recurring knee injuries and having dealt with blood clots in the past due to colon cancer, David soaked his knee in a hot bath, his normal fix for leg issues. But this instance, when he got his leg out of the tub, it wasn’t feeling any better. Soon after, he had a fuzzy feeling running down his right arm and foot, and he felt some facial drooping. David chalked each of these up to a different problem. “I have neuropathy, so I thought it was just flaring up,” he said. “I have a history of Bell’s Palsy, so I thought it was just that.” His walking had become more unbalanced and culminated with David falling into a flower bed while on his way to see his 14-day-old grandchild.
David’s wife, Sherry, rushed him to the emergency room, where doctors diagnosed a stroke. After he was stabilized, David was unable to walk, unable to dress himself and had cognitive challenges. He also experienced a severe decrease in his strength, endurance and balance and extreme, uncontrollable mood swings. Doctors recommended inpatient rehabilitation to regain his independence.
David chose Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation (BSWIR) – Fort Worth and its Day Neuro Program for its expertise in working with patients like him and its proximity to his home and family. The Day Neuro Program provides focused rehabilitation for people who have had a stroke, a brain injury or other neurological disorder. “We were so impressed with the experience on the inpatient side that it made me want to stay and come down to Day Neuro,” he said.
Upon admission, David was assessed by the interdisciplinary team. He would need physical, occupational and recreational therapy and his care team wove his key goal into the treatment plan – to walk again and to hold his grandchild.
The therapy team put on an exercise regimen that utilized free weights, stretching and therapy equipment to strengthen his muscles, improve his balance and increase his standing endurance. An old boxer, David particularly enjoyed getting to box in occupational and recreational therapy. Therapists also took note of his goals to hold his grandchild again and incorporated a 30-pound doll into his strength training. “I loved when my therapy included carrying the doll around because it really made me feel like I was working to be able to carry my grandbaby,” he said. All of this intensive exercise had an unforeseen benefit for David; he said he’s now in better shape than he was before the stroke.
David said he’s learned a lot about himself during his recovery. “I’m a whole lot more soft-hearted than I thought I was. I’m grateful for everything. My grandbaby has got me through so much. She has been my biggest motivation.”
Upon discharge, David looks forward to resuming his normal routine, but he has one final message for the staff at BSWIR – Fort Worth and the Day Neuro Program: “I love you all dearly. I have such an emotional bond with all of you. And I trust all of you.”
For those going through a similar situation, David leaves this advice: “Therapy is like trout fishing. You need to trust the process, enjoy the benefits and thank your guides when it’s over. I owe everything to the therapists here. Without the right attitude, I wouldn’t have made it through this.”