Christopher's Story

Chris Higgins smiles after therapy.

Retired sign designer Christopher Higgins filled his days woodworking, hunting and spending time with his wife, Carly, and their two sons. His life was interrupted early one morning when Christopher rose and shortly after, collapsed. Carly called 911 as she realized he was confused, had slurred speech and weakness on his right side.

The medical team at the emergency department diagnosed a stroke caused by a blood clot on the left side of his brain.

Christopher stabilized after four days of acute care, but he couldn’t move his right hand or arm. Walking was also difficult because his leg was weak. In addition, Christopher had facial weakness creating challenges with talking, drinking and eating.  His doctors recommended specialized care and rehabilitation, and for that, Christopher and family chose Select Rehabilitation Hospital of Denton.

Upon admission, the physician-led interdisciplinary team evaluated Christopher and developed a care plan to help him recover and return home.

Physical therapy (PT) worked on building Christopher’s core strength with bedside sitting and stretching activities. These exercises strengthened his abdominal muscles, allowing him to safely stand and transfer in and out of bed without falling.

While Christopher was disheartened by his health, his family and the care team kept pushing him forward. His son would bolster Christopher with consistent positive remarks like, “You’re going to make it, Dad.”  The ongoing encouragement drove Christopher to work a little harder in therapy to regain his independence.

He advanced to gait training with exercises that focused on walking and balance. Therapists also fitted him into an exoskeleton, a wearable robotic therapy device. The exoskeleton supported Christopher and stimulated his leg muscles to walk with the proper gait. “It helped me walk the right way and improve my posture,” he said.

Christopher made steady progress, advancing from the Ekso Bionics exoskeleton with assistance, to a walker and leg brace and, ultimately, within 11 days he was walking over 300 feet with a cane. 

Occupational therapy instructed Christopher on regaining control of and refining coordination in his right arm and hand. He worked with weights to strengthen his arm muscles. He also sorted and manipulated small objects to refine his coordination and learned how to use adaptive equipment, such as a reacher and a long-handled sponge, to more easily retrieve objects and bathe. Christopher welcomed this therapy as it improved his ability to manage everyday tasks such as dressing, grooming, toileting and showering.

Meantime speech therapists worked to improve Christopher’s speech and swallowing abilities. They applied external electrical stimulation to the nerves on Christopher’s face -- awakening them to make his speech clearer and allow him to swallow more effectively. After a few sessions, his pronunciation was greatly improved and he was swallowing without issue.

After 13 days at Select Rehabilitation Hospital of Denton, Christopher could independently move from sitting to standing, walk with a cane and care for himself.  He was ready and excited to return home to his family.

Before leaving, he had a few words for the hospital staff, “These people really care about patients… I now have motivation to live again.”

For others facing a similar journey, Christopher shares: “You can do this. You can fight back and win. Let your therapists help you.”

*Patient success stories from across our hospital network.