Traumatic brain injury
Nathan Butson, who grew up in Arlington, Texas, loved playing basketball and exercising. He recently had moved to Houston to be with his daughter. But now, he faced the most challenging and unexpected detour.
The 30-year-old doesn't remember much about the incident, but he was told a good Samaritan found him unconscious at a gas station. CPR was administered until the ambulance arrived, and he was rushed to the hospital. Put on a ventilator, Nathan was in a coma for two weeks.
"When I woke up, I couldn't talk, moving was difficult and my vision was terrible," he recalled. "But my mind was always there. I guess I'm grateful for that."
Diagnosed with an anoxic brain injury and cardiac arrest, Nathan was in the hospital for two months until he stabilized and transferred to a nursing facility in Fort Worth to begin rehabilitation.
"My hands didn't work at all, my speech was impaired, my vision and my memory were affected," Nathan remembered. "I was unable to walk. I couldn't feed myself, decreased endurance, decreased stamina, decreased strength ... I had to have assistance to go to the bathroom, I couldn't dress myself, I couldn't bathe myself."
After three months, he was discharged, but he required specialized rehabilitative care to regain his lost strength and independence. Nathan continued his rehabilitation journey at the Day Neuro Program at Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation (BSWIR) – Fort Worth.
"My mom chose it [BSWIR – Fort Worth] because it got really good reviews and we took a tour and we really liked it," he said. "I was really nervous about the bathroom situation, but it got a lot easier after being here."
Upon arrival at BSWIR – Fort Worth Day Neuro, the physician-led rehabilitation team worked with Nathan to put a treatment plan in place. His goals were simple: to regain his independence by feeding himself, go to the bathroom on his own, walk and to be able to throw a ball.
These goals required physical, occupational and speech therapy. Physical therapy activities aimed to strengthen Nathan's body and increase his endurance and activity tolerance. Occupational therapy focused on refining his fine motor skills to eat independently. Speech therapy aided Nathan in regaining control of his throat muscles, helping him speak confidently.
Through intensive therapies and dedicated support, Nathan learned to feed himself, walk with the aid of a walker and accomplish personal tasks such as using the bathroom independently. His therapists equipped him with adaptive techniques to reclaim his daily routine, from brushing his teeth to managing essential self-care activities.
Pushing himself beyond his limits, he began to reclaim his strength and stamina one step at a time. "I loved the functional endurance groups because they always wore me out, so I knew they were working and getting me stronger," he stated. "When I started the groups, I was put in the standing frame but wouldn't be able to make it for through the whole group. Now I don't even have to worry about standing up the whole time. Now, it's just something I can do."
Among the pivotal moments in his journey, Nathan fondly recalls the "ah-ha!" moment when he could eat on his own. "My therapists really worked and taught me to use my fork in an adapted manner, then worked up to using it normally," he said. "When I could eat on my own. I was like 'Boom!' I really felt like I was getting my independence back."
Nathan knew he was regaining control over his life, and he was grateful for the support of his family. "They came and visited me in Houston ... they took care of me. I owe everything to them!"
Reflecting on his overall rehabilitation experience, Nathan sums it up this way: "Good! Definitely good."
To individuals and families facing similar challenges, Nathan offers these words of wisdom: "Don't give up. Even if you don't see progress immediately, it will come if you just keep working."