Eric Eades, a 52-year-old special education math teacher, is passionate about teaching his students. On April 12th, while talking to a student, he suddenly became dizzy and unable to move. Concerned about Eric's high blood pressure, his principal and school nurse sent him to the ER, where he received treatment and medication but was sent home. But he woke up the next morning unable to swallow and feeling like he couldn't breathe.
Another trip to the ER and further tests revealed that Eric had suffered a stroke in his cerebellum and another near the brain stem.
"My BP [blood pressure] got to 230 over something and it hurt so bad I wanted to scream," Eric recalled. "I was in and out for a lot of this, so I don't remember much. I remember the doctors and nurses doing strength tests and I did so well on them that I remember thinking, “Why am I here?” But then I would barely move my head and it would trigger the dizziness and vertigo."
Eric was in the hospital for about five days and was then transferred to Texas Rehab for inpatient care.
"I was there for two weeks, and those were two pretty hard weeks," said Eric. "I remember standing on a walker on my first day and leaning far to the right, but in my mind, I was standing straight up."
With the hope of attending his students' graduation in May, he chose Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation (BSWIR) – Fort Worth to regain his independence. "[BSWIR-Fort Worth] was recommended to me because it was more intensive than other outpatient facilities and better for me to get better faster, so I agreed," he explained. "[Attending] graduation was huge for me because I wanted my kids to see me doing well, and I wanted to be there to support them on their big day."
When Eric first arrived at BSWIR – Fort Worth on May 9, he had severe dizziness, a loss of balance, double vision and he couldn't swallow. Under the guidance of a physician-led team of therapists, everyone agreed Eric made early and remarkable progress. In physical therapy, he worked to regain his balance and relearn the proper dynamics to take the first step. "Having the freedom to figure it out has been great," he mentioned. "I really liked any balance tasks because it has made me so much better."
His speech therapists inspired him to improve. "In speech therapy, I've loved getting to help with tasks around the clinic," Eric said. "My SLP [speech-language pathologist] has really challenged me intellectually, which helped me feel more prepared for going back to work."
In occupational therapy, among other exercises, Eric enjoyed the lightsaber sessions as well as the Valpar machine, which helped him hone and control his movements, eventually getting him back behind the wheel.
The highlight in Eric's recovery came on the day of his school's graduation – he had made it. He stated, "I wasn't only walking at the graduation, but I drove to graduation! I stood for two hours talking to people. Everything just felt… normal. It felt like, 'What stroke?' but it really felt like I had come so far. I still, of course, had some issues to work on, such as high-level balance, leg swelling and stamina."
Throughout his journey, Eric drew strength from his support system, particularly his loving family. Their encouragement and acceptance played an instrumental role in his recovery. He emphasized, "They've loved me through this, and that's all you need."
Reflecting on his overall experience at BSWIR – Fort Worth, Eric expressed his gratitude, stating, "This could have been so much worse than I could have imagined and then some. I like to be confident, and I wasn't when I got here- but now, I know I'm going to get where I need to be and I'm almost there. I didn't think I would succeed as well as I have or as quickly as I have, but the therapists have put me in a position and have put in the work to get me where I am. I am never going to forget this place. I wouldn't be where I am without this place."
Always the teacher, Eric had some advice and words of encouragement for those dealing with similar challenges:
"You're not alone; you've got to trust the process. These guys have your best interests at heart. Don't be afraid to try things, but don't hold in your feelings. Let them know so they can help you. Remember that no one wants to be here or in this situation, but own where you are and put in the work. If you put in the work, they will get you to your goals."