Robert's Story

Robert Williams Headshot


Originally from New York, Robert Williams' basketball career took him around the globe, from Japan to China, Russia to Fiji and beyond.

It was in Texas, however, where he found his true love. While fishing with his brothers, he encountered his future wife, who was reading a book on the pier. That meeting sparked their beautiful love story that endures to this day. Their strong bond connected them, and Robert's wife was instrumental in his recovery journey.

When 65-year-old Robert woke up one morning wheezing and spilling his medication, his wife of 18 years sprang into action.

Mrs. Williams recalled, "I looked at him and said something is not right. The 911 operator asked me to ask him to lift his hands, smile and say, "It's a great day," he couldn't do any of that. The operator said she thought he was having a stroke. When the paramedics came, they took him to Harris Methodist. The team said he had a bilateral stroke, which is rare. They gave Robert a 35% chance to live and completed an experimental surgery. He was in bad shape. For months, he couldn't talk."

Following his initial hospital treatment, Robert faced a long and arduous road to recovery. Intubated and later fitted with a tracheostomy tube, he remained unable to walk or communicate. Once Robert stabilized, he transferred to Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation (BSWIR) – Fort Worth.

"One of the therapists at the previous facility told me about it ... they knew I was looking somewhere," Mrs. Williams remarked. "He said 'What about Baylor rehab?'... he told me the intensity of the program, and I asked and they accepted him. We had heard y'all were full, but he was able to come on his birthday. I said wow, nice."

Robert's goals at BSWIR - Fort Worth were simple: to get back to his routine and be independent again. Under the guidance of a dedicated team of physician-led therapists, he embarked on his rehabilitation journey. His care team wasted no time challenging him to regain his independence.

"When I came to BSWIR – Fort Worth, they said if I wanted to go home, I have to start walking," said Mr. Williams. First, working on strength and balance, his physical therapists took Robert through exercises to rebuild his core. Focusing on the core muscles allowed him to begin work on standing.

His big moment was when he could finally stand up. "It wasn't until he came to Baylor that he learned how to walk and talk ... it was a miracle," recalled Mrs. Williams.

"They [his therapists] made me get up, and I hated them at first, but now I give them all the glory," Robert remembered fondly. "They helped me walk again. I started on the Sara Stedy lift, then the parallel bars and then the walker. I was able to do it. After that, everything just went to work ... I give everything to you guys."

Indeed, Robert credited his steady progress to the support of his therapists, particularly his speech therapist. Her guidance and expertise helped him regain his speech and reclaim the joy of sharing a meal with loved ones. Additionally, Robert found joy and strength in the boxing sessions in occupational and recreation therapy, where he discovered the power to fight for his recovery.

Robert tackled each therapy session with determination. Every step forward filled him with a renewed sense of purpose and gratitude. "He has had some great nurses and therapists," said Mrs. Williams. "I recommend this to anyone. We're a Baylor family. We had a great experience, and he thrived here."

Throughout this challenging journey, Robert's family and friends stood by his side, providing support and love. Their faith and prayers were a constant source of inspiration, reinforcing Robert's determination to overcome every obstacle in his path. "I felt so loved and supported through this," he mentioned.

He continued singing the praise of his family. "Coming in, telling me I can do anything, seeing my two grandkids. One came in and said you're alright, papa. My granddaughter came in; she was happy for me, sad but happy. I was happy for her. I will say that my son doesn't say a lot, but he came in one day, and he said, 'You're going to be alright.' It meant a lot to me. A lot of prayers and our pastor came up and prayed for me. My boss came up to see me. My best friend for 50 years came to see me."

Reflecting on his overall rehabilitation experience, Robert's wife fondly recalled the moment his eyes lit up upon entering the hospital on his birthday. "He was really sad, but then he got here and lit up. He said, 'I'm here! I'm going to do this and get home!'"

Through his extraordinary journey, Robert has learned never to take anything for granted. His perspective on life has shifted, and he now seeks joy in every moment, finding strength in his faith.

Robert offers advice to others facing similar challenges: "You don't always have to do it on your own. Ask for help. If you can't do it, someone can teach you how to do it."