It was a typical evening at home for Keith Smith , who was getting his 8-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter ready for bed on a school night, when his life would change forever. On February 12, the 40-year-old father of two, had just finished playing tooth fairy for his son when he did not feel like himself. “I began feeling freezing cold and I was shaking, I knew something wasn’t right,” said Keith. “I tried to shake it off but even my wife noticed.”
Keith was experiencing the symptoms of a stroke.
“I’m a Type 2 diabetic and I had been warned that because of that, a stroke could happen, but it was all extremely unexpected,” said Keith. “My wife had me take my blood sugar, I took a hot shower and as I was coming out of the shower, I still felt those same signs and I couldn’t feel my right side.”
Keith’s wife insisted they needed to go to the hospital to get him checked out. “She managed to get me into the car and we rushed to Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital,” says Keith.
At the hospital, doctors treated Keith for a stroke. He spent the next four weeks in the hospital, including five days in the Intensive Care Unit.
Working Toward Recovery
Once discharged from the acute-care hospital, Keith began intense rehabilitation at Memorial Hermann Rehabilitation Hospital – Katy, part of the Memorial Hermann Rehabilitation Network affiliated with TIRR Memorial Hermann. As a Katy resident, he was happy he was able to get intense inpatient therapy close to home.
When Keith arrived at the rehabilitation hospital, he was unable to stand up or walk, and relied heavily on therapists and loved ones to get around. Keith refers to his time there as “the hardest thing he’s ever done.”
For the next several weeks, Keith persevered through intense physical, occupational and speech therapy sessions. “During this time, I really had to retrain my brain to do things it used to do, and as an athlete this was tough,” said Keith. “I’ve trained and played baseball all of my life but my therapy was challenging.”
Using Baseball in His Therapy
Keith continued to work diligently with his therapists. “I pushed through therapy as hard as I could, I didn’t want to depend on anyone anymore and most importantly I wanted to get back to coaching my son’s baseball team and being there for the players,” said Keith. “Baseball also became therapy for me because my physical and occupational therapists were able to incorporate my love for the game into what they had me doing, and I also found days to get on the baseball field to still work on walking and cheering for the team.”
His therapists had Keith work on throwing baseballs, playing catch and activities that focused on repetition. In addition there was a great focus on regaining his strength to stand and walk through gait training. He worked to regain strength and skill in his upper body by incorporating activities such as pushing carts and stacking small cones, which helped to improve movement in his hands and fingers.
Eight weeks after his stroke, Keith was able to return to the baseball field with the assistance from friends and family along with a brace, which allowed him to bear his body weight. “Getting on the field was therapy for my body, mind and soul,” said Keith. “It mentally put me back into a ‘normal’ life, if even for only a few hours a week.”
With the support of his therapy team and his wife, Keith pushed on through the difficult weeks of his therapy. “My wife played a huge role in my therapy journey because she provided enormous support, continued teaching and making sure our children continued to be taken care of despite me being in the hospital.”
Back in the Swing of Things
Four months after his stroke, Keith returned to work, returned to driving and, best of all, returned to the baseball field with his son, Catcher.
“There’s good therapy in a lot of places, but the therapy I received is phenomenal,” said Keith. “I’m doing a lot better because of such an amazing team at Memorial Hermann Rehabilitation Hospital-Katy, which included my therapists Hershey and Brenda.”
After completing inpatient rehabilitation, Keith began outpatient therapy at Memorial Hermann Rehabilitation Hospital-Katy. He continued to improve in his walking and began running again. His therapists also focused on improving his independence. “During outpatient therapy, my team, Darryl and Abbie, were able to incorporate activities I needed to master and improve on for work and to continue coaching the baseball team,” said Keith. “Words can’t describe how appreciative I am for everyone that has helped me along this recovery process.”
Memorial Hermann Rehabilitation Hospital – Katy offers inpatient and outpatient therapy programs for individuals experiencing difficulties with physical or cognitive functioning following illnesses or injuries. To learn more about Memorial Hermann Rehabilitation Hospital-Katy, visit http://www.memorialhermann.org/locations/katy-rehab/.