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When Mike Yoxall ended up with a spinal cord injury after an accident at home he says, “I didn’t spend a lot of time feeling sorry for myself.” His attitude meshes with BIR’s, which is: Take the energy you would spend on futile thinking and use it to make the most of life. Mike took advantage of his therapists’ advice to maximize his independence. “They teach one key thing,” he says, “you simply have to think ahead.” Mike is an outspoken advocate for improving equipment for people with disabilities, saying, “I try to help those coming after me.” Although quadriplegia “controls the ebb and flow of your whole day,” he says, Mike still manages to work full-time as a regional sales representative, which requires both flying and driving. He also swims as often as possible, is active in his support group and has agreed to be on the board of BIR, adding, “I’m the only quad on the board.”
‘Amazing.’ That’s how Randy Borders’ physician described his rehabilitation progress less than six months after his stroke. It’s also how his coworkers would characterize it.
Borders has successfully completed Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation’s (BIR) Day Neuro Rehabilitation Program after returning to work following a three-month stay at the facility as an inpatient. “Whenever I meet people and tell them that I’ve had a stroke, they can’t believe it,” he says. “Many of my coworkers tell me, ‘Randy – you haven’t skipped a beat.’”
A Mind Meld
Borders’ stroke took its largest toll on his mental capacities, which was especially devastating to his career as a customer service engineer with a major corporation, where he primarily works with computers and networks. He didn’t know how much cognitive function he’d regain.
“Before I went to Baylor, my doctor would hold up a pen and ask me what it was and I’d say a ‘pencil.’ He’d ask me what two plus two was, and I’d say ‘I don’t know,’” says Borders, who prides himself in his math skills.
After a week in the hospital, he began an inpatient rehabilitation program at a non-Baylor facility. But three weeks into it, he didn’t feel like he was getting the type of care he needed to be able achieve his recovery goals. That’s when Borders’ brother – a stroke victim himself – told him about BIR.
Randy spent three months as an inpatient at the rehabilitation facility, where he received intensive physical, speech and occupational therapy.
When Borders finished the inpatient program, he eased back into his job, working six hours a day while continuing his recovery with BIR’s Day Neuro Rehabilitation Program.
The program provides comprehensive outpatient therapy to patients with acquired brain injuries such as stroke or traumatic brain injury. It brings together a multidisciplinary care team to evaluate and develop an individualized therapy plan. Patients work with a physiatrist, neuropsychologist, speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, therapeutic recreation specialist and others skilled in rehabilitation.
The outpatient program helped Borders further refine and apply many of the basic skills he needed to function, such as reading and math, that he relearned as an inpatient at BIR. It connected these skills to his work environment.
“The Day Neuro program showed me exactly what I needed to do when I was returning to work,” says Borders. “And if there was anything I was having a problem with at work, I’d be able to talk to a therapist about it, which really helps out. It made me much more successful re-entering the work world.”
Borders cites his difficulty processing large quantities of information while reintegrating into his job. “They taught me to take things one at a time, and how to evaluate information as I went through it,” explains Borders. “A lot of times my customers will give me four or five problems at a time. So I have to analyze the information in the proper order, and that’s what the program helped me fine tune.”
One of the most helpful things he learned while attending the outpatient program was how to effectively use day planning software to organize information and keep track of his schedule.
“The different therapies, the different programs offered at BIR – like the Day Neuro Rehab Program – is what got me back to where I am today.”
What do bibs, a public television reality show, a nationally known retailer and Inc. Magazine’s Entrepreneur of the Year have in common? Two words, Alison Schuback. What’s so extraordinary about Alison? Alison is living with a life-changing traumatic brain injury (TBI) that keeps her mostly confined to a wheelchair.
On October 17, 1997, everything changed in the blink of an eye for Alison. An SUV ran a red light and broadsided her car, sending it careening into other vehicles, her brain jostling and jumbling. Doctors at the Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation (BIR) would later discover her memory and ability to think were mostly unaffected. But, the part of her brain that controls and coordinates movement was badly damaged. She was in a coma for 29 days and the doctors discussed with her family removing life support. The words fell on deaf ears. After all, Alison comes from a long line of positive thinkers and fighters. She slowly began to wake up.
During her many months of rehab before returning home, Alison focused on her future. Her caregivers at BIR marveled at her positive attitude.
It started with a family dinner at an area restaurant. Alison became frustrated because her shaky hand once again caused a food stain on her dress. She had tried wearing aprons but they weren’t the answer. So, Alison decided to create and sell an adult bib. She selected a transparent design and, despite initial success, the small number of sales couldn’t sustain her business. That’s when fate again intervened in Alison’s life.
Her mother told her about auditions being held the next day for “Everyday Edisons,” a Public Broadcasting show that tracks inventors from initial idea to final realization of their dream. Not only did Alison’s audition with her father bring tears to the eyes of the show’s producers, it impressed Bari Fagin, director of public relations at Bed, Bath and Beyond (BB&B), who was in the audience looking for new products to feature in the store. Fagin took Alison’s story back to Len Feinstein, co-chairman and co-founder of BB&B who had also founded the Head Injury Association (HIA), a not-for-profit organization.
Fast forward to today. BB&B has agreed to stock the Invisibib in its stores. The HIA is overseeing the creation of a for-profit company to produce and sell the product, with proceeds going to HIA. Most of the company’s employees are traumatic brain injury survivors, and as such, Alison is the force behind the company along with mentors from HIA and BB&B’s executive team – and in 2008, Inc. Magazine named her Entrepreneur of the Year. Who would have believed it?
In the ensuing 11 years since the accident, she has continued to receive therapy at BIR and she and her family actively participate in TBI support groups. They credit BIR and its dedicated staff with Alison’s remarkable progress.
“My family and I have always believed that failure is not an option,” Alison explains. “So, every day, I say good morning world!”
One of the many remarkable things about Sean Carter, 26, is that he's a motivational speaker, despite his inability to walk or talk. Two years ago, he was riding in a pickup that struck a tree at high speed. Sean sustained a significant brain injury. How he went from there to public speaking is a story of courage and will on the part of Sean and the BIR staff. "Even when I could nothing, everyone encouraged me," he says. "They helped me realize that there is life after brain injury." Slowly, Sean has progressed to "walking," using his mother as support, and "speaking" through an electronic computer device on his power wheelchair. "Because of BIR, I'm able to live a rich and happy life at home," he says. Now enrolled in college and considering studying architecture, he says, "They helped me believe I really can do anything."
Judy Bonds says it happened on Christmas eve. She was out to dinner with a friend and, "the next thing I knew, it was February and I was at Baylor." Judy had spent 31 days in intensive care with an intracranial hemorrhage. By the time Judy started rehabilitation, she says, "I hardly knew my name." But steady progress helped her regain short-term memory as well as overcome other physical and cognitive setbacks. Now she's back to work full-time and has no problem remembering how helpful the BIR staff was throughout her rehabilitation. "That gang was wonderful," she says. "I give them five stars."
In 1958, 14-year-old Roland Carney hopped on his motor scooter to deliver a newspaper to a customer who had reported his paper missing. En route, Roland lost control of his scooter on a rain-slick street, rammed the back of a car, slamming his leg into the car’s bumper. From that moment on, Roland knew his life would never be the same.
What followed were years of constant pain and other physical problems. Roland endured more than 25 surgeries to keep his leg as healthy as possible and to keep himself as mobile as possible. “You name it, I had it,” he says.
Eventually, I had to use crutches or a wheelchair to get around because of the pain,” Roland says. “I finally decided that the leg needed to come off. It’s the best decision I ever made.”
On March 17, 2008, his leg was amputated. He immediately began rehab while in the hospital. Within a few weeks, he was transferred from the hospital to Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation (BIR), where he continued inpatient rehab. After he returned home, he continued to visit BIR for eight more months for rehab. “I didn’t get my prosthetic leg until about five weeks after my surgery,” he says. “The therapists worked with me to improve my upper body and lower leg strength and my balance. I had lots of back problems from the way I had to walk with my bad leg. And, they had to help me adjust to and work with my new leg.”
“Today is the best part of my life,” Roland says with a big smile. “I’m pain-free and I’m not taking antibiotics any more. I still have some back problems and I have to pace myself as far as what I can do. But I’m doing great. In fact, I just went to a Mardi Gras celebration in Jefferson, TX, and I walked all around and did great.
“I think Baylor and BIR are the best facilities in Dallas,” Roland states resolutely. “I’m mobile now and it really feels good.”
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