Young Stroke Victim Having Remarkable Recovery
by Adam Ghassemi
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – He was just a normal guy who loved music, working out and spending time on the lake, but last August everything changed. Now someone you may think is an unlikely patient has gone further than doctors thought he ever would.
It isn't uncommon for physical therapists to hear from former patients, but when David Leonard went to see the employees at the TriStar Southern Hills Rehab Center he was reuniting with people who were like family during his recent five-week stay.
There was probably no one happier to see him up and moving than, Tracy Dobes, who knows how hard he's worked.
"He had nothing on the right side of his body at all. Could not move his arm, his leg, couldn't even smile," Dobes said.
The 32-year-old was wake boarding on a lake near his parent's Alabama home last summer when he took a hard fall. His mother, Donna Traweek, remembers how those awful headaches lasted for two-weeks.
"He just kept saying he had a headache," she said.
"Nagging," Leonard said. These days he only utters a few words at a time.
But one morning a few weeks a later his roommate found him on the floor and unconscious. The fall tore his carotid artery.
"As the blood flow kept going through it, it finally just severed it. And that's when the two blood clots went to his brain," his mother said.
The stroke stopped blood from flowing to left side of his brain and left this healthy man unable to walk or talk. He couldn't move the entire right side of his body. Doctors weren't sure how long he'd survive.
Surgeons put a portion of his skull into his abdomen to allow his brain to swell and heal. He had to wear a helmet while relearning to take his first steps.
"That was probably the first time that I saw him really have hope that he was going to get better," Dobes added.
But no one could have predicted his progress from such a freak accident.
Doctor Barton Huddleston said strokes can happen to people at any age. The key is knowing how to fight.
"It's critical for people to know that there is substantial recovery for young and the elderly who are having strokes or stroke-like syndromes," Huddleston said.
Today, Leonard is able to conquer stairs easily. He hopes his determination is an inspiration for other stroke victims not to give up.
"Hope," he said.
With every step he gets closer to the way things were. No matter how long or hard the journey is to get there.
"Every day he makes small improvements so I think eventually, you know, he's going to be pretty well functioning," Dobes said.
David has been living with his family in Birmingham, but hopes to move back to Nashville one day and start living a normal life again. They credit his remarkable recovery to the staff at the TriStar Southern Hills Rehab Center.