In just 15 minutes, speechwriter Eric Bearse lost the ability to communicate completely due to a stroke.
Confused and alone in his house, he did not realize what was happening until his family arrived and rushed him to the emergency room. The 51-year-old was then admitted to St. David's Hospital, where the team conducted various tests and diagnosed him with a severe cerebrovascular accident (CVA). Devastatingly, the stroke had robbed Eric of his ability to write and speak, presenting him with stark and daunting challenges. He also had lost complete control of his right side.
"I was a speech writer working in politics," Eric said. "I had a major stroke and lost my ability to use language. 50 years of language was gone and I had to start all over again."
However, Eric did not lose hope that he could regain his independence. Looking for an intense outpatient facility to begin his rehabilitation journey, Eric chose Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation (BSWIR) – Lakeway and its Day Neuro Program. The program's six-hour daily sessions were tailored to his needs, offering a comprehensive approach to his recovery.
Eric's initial goals were modest, aiming to construct coherent sentences without needing corrections. He also desired to regain control over his right arm, as he struggled with limited mobility on his dominant side. The Lakeway Day Neuro team heard him, and with each passing day, they worked together to get him closer to achieving his goals.
Occupational therapy played a significant role in Eric's journey, focusing on improving the movement of his upper arm. Through concentrated therapy, he found hope when he first moved his thumb, with Botox appointments offering further optimism. Physical therapy was another vital component, enabling Eric to walk and run impressive distances while minimizing the use of his ankle-foot orthosis (AFO). Speech therapy brought challenges and rewards, as Eric initially found it difficult to make substantial progress.
"Progress is incremental and very, very small, to be honest," he said. "I am now better able to understand and use my iPhone better than three months ago. I am also making progress because I am now willing to talk to people on the phone."
Indeed, he began to notice improvements, especially during engaging group activities and games.
"The rehab team has helped me get greater movement on my right arm," he recounted. "It seems like my speech is coming along and I am glad. The harder thing is when I am given a blank paper and asked to write. That is very hard, though not impossible. It just takes a lot of work."
Admittedly, his recovery progressed slower than he wanted, but Eric achieved significant milestones within Day Neuro. He no longer relied on his AFO all the time, and his speech gradually improved, enabling him to engage in even more phone conversations and schedule appointments independently. Eric's rehabilitation journey was long and winding, but he continued to work diligently, seeking progress every day.
Eric acknowledged the crucial role his family played in his recovery. "My family all came around once I got out of the hospital," Eric recalled. "They helped me move back home." From assisting with his transition back home to participating in family conferences, his loved ones have provided steadfast support. His ex-wife, Jeanae, was instrumental in ensuring he remained organized and up-to-date on his medical affairs. Despite the challenges that came with his condition, Eric found solace in their presence. "Each of them gave me their time."
As he neared the end of the Day Neuro program, Eric eagerly anticipated the next phase of his rehabilitation journey. He planned to continue his outpatient therapy, recognizing the significant damage caused by his stroke and acknowledging that he still has a long road ahead.
Reflecting on his overall rehabilitation experience at Day Neuro, Eric shared, "It is very difficult but very amazing to see how much has changed ... hard but rewarding experience. What Day Neuro teaches is … to be a little bit more ok each day and to stay positive."
Offering advice to others embarking on their own rehabilitation journey, Eric emphasized, "One of the great things is that you can get everything you need in one place. That was important for me. I couldn't have made so much progress without that."
"It will all be ok. Every once in a while you have a down day, but you have to get up the next day and be positive. I have tried to do that."