One dad’s fight to have a walk to remember with his daughter, after months of health challenges

By Lindsey Klingensmith

Roberto Guzman celebrated the start of 2020 with zeal.  With a few exceptions, his daughter’s wedding being one major exception, 2019 was not a great year and he was relieved to see it come to an end.

2019 Health Struggles

It started in early January when Guzman experienced dizziness while walking his dogs.  Concerned it could be something serious, he saw a cardiologist.  Initial tests determined that he should have a stent placed.  However, while prepping for the procedure, further imaging uncovered blockages in three arteries, including his carotid artery, and the plan quickly changed to open heart surgery.   After treatment and three weeks in the hospital, Guzman returned home to recover.

Shortly thereafter, he was readmitted to the hospital to address fluid retention.  After a week, he was sent home.

Then, about two weeks later, Guzman experienced acute back pain so severe it made it nearly impossible for him to do anything.  He couldn’t sleep, couldn’t stand being touched, and nothing helped the pain.  Back in the hospital, he suffered a major setback.  While he walked into the hospital on his own, within a short amount of time he lost all sensation from the waist down.  A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test revealed the cause of the pain and subsequent paralysis – an infection in his spine.

Roberto spent two weeks as an in-patient while he healed.  Lacking the ability to walk or care for his basic needs upon discharge, he was sent to TIRR Memorial Hermann-The Woodlands Medical Center for rehabilitation.

Regaining Independence   

“When I got to TIRR, I couldn’t walk or move my legs.  I also lacked the ability to complete even the most basic tasks like dressing myself,” said Guzman.  “I was extremely frustrated, but even more determined to get better.  My daughter’s wedding was scheduled for late May and I was hell-bent on walking her down the aisle.”

According to Crystal Rempfer, OTR, Guzman’s occupational therapist, he required 100 percent assistance when he arrived. 

“Roberto had very poor trunk control, he couldn’t move his legs and he had no grip strength in his hands.  He was very weak, but he was motivated to work, and he worked very hard,” said Rempfer.

After several weeks of intense physical and occupational therapy, Guzman progressed from being bed bound to walking with the assistance of a walker.  He also regained his ability and independence to complete the daily tasks of showering, dressing and more. 

Wedding Bells

On May 22, 2019, Roberto achieved his ultimate goal and there wasn’t a dry eye in the chapel.

“I am forever thankful to TIRR for their amazing work and dedication to my father,” said Clarissa Guzman, Roberto’s daughter. “It was such an emotional day and meant so much to me to know what he overcame to be there to walk me down the aisle.”

For more information on rehabilitation services offered at TIRR Memorial Hermann, visit tirr.memorialhermann.org or call 1 (800) 44-REHAB (73422).

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