Local hospital helps Holbrook resident heal from stroke

Fifty-year-old Robert Dawson of Holbrook, Ariz., has always been an active man. A full-time physician assistant and father to eight children, he’s used to being on the go. On any given day, he could be found working, attending his children’s events, sight-seeing, traveling or doing another activity.

But things changed this past November.

“After watching television one evening, I tried to stand up from the couch, but couldn’t,” Dawson says. “Then I began slurring my speech, and I didn’t know I was.”

Dawson had suffered a stroke.

Dawson was initially treated at a local hospital and then referred to Mountain Valley Regional Rehabilitation Hospital in Prescott Valley for continued care. “The experience was great from the start,” he says, “beginning with my transport driver, Vic. After getting me to the rehabilitation hospital, Vic came by every day for the next month to check on me.”

Upon admission, Dawson was able to do very little physically. He couldn’t use his hand, and he couldn’t walk. He had trouble speaking and swallowing. “I was helpless,” he says. “I needed people to teach me how to learn to do the most basic things; it’s very difficult and humbling. But, during my stay, the hospital staff never made me feel embarrassed or humiliated. They were always encouraging.”

Dawson was cared for by an interdisciplinary team comprised of physicians, rehabilitation nurses, occupational therapists, speech pathologists, physical therapists, respiratory therapists, and other medical personnel.

“As with every patient, we worked as a team with Robert and his wife to create an individualized care plan that would bring him the best results,” says Dr. Alan Berman, Medical Director of Mountain Valley Regional Rehabilitation Hospital. “By doing this, we allowed Robert to receive the specialized care he needed so he could progress at his own pace to regain his abilities.”

Robert is one of 1,300 patients treated every year at Mountain Valley Regional Rehabilitation Hospital. The hospital is recognized as being in the Top 10% of rehabilitation hospitals in the nation for patient care. And, it has earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval for its Advanced Stroke and Traumatic Brain Injury Rehabilitation programs. It’s the only free-standing acute physical rehabilitation hospital serving central and northern Arizona, treating patients who are recovering from strokes, brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, orthopedic injuries and more.

“All our patients have access to well-equipped therapy areas to aid in their healing,” Berman says. This includes a 6,000-square-foot therapy gym, an aquatic therapy pool, and a therapeutic courtyard to allow practice on different terrains such as ramps, stairs, gravel, dirt, curbs, and wood decking.

And, patients like Robert also have access to a daily living suite and a transitional suite. These areas allow patients to practice daily at-home activities while still under the supervision of a healthcare professional. Some of these activities may include getting in and out of bed, showering, cooking, or doing laundry.

“Re-learning how to do things was difficult,” Dawson says. “The first couple of days, I was pretty dizzy and tired, but everyone was very accommodating to my limitations. And, they’d explain things to me and my wife two or three times if they needed too.”

Initially, Dawson says he was frustrated by his physical inabilities, but he was constantly reassured by staff that he was going to get better. And, he did. After two weeks, he started to walk again and his speech began to improve. Eventually, he also could eat food without having it pureed first. After about 4 weeks, he returned home. He now receives outpatient services twice a week, and is working on regaining use of his left hand.

Dawson says his primary focus now is on continued healing. He walks a little every day and has been able to attend church on Sundays.

“I have to thank everyone at the hospital from the bottom of my heart,” he says. “From the people who served me food, cleaned my room and gave me baths to the therapists, nurses and physicians – they were all like angels. They helped me heal while maintaining my dignity. I felt I could trust everyone, and coming from the medical field, I know how hard it is to do this. It’s hard to create a great team, but that’s what they have at Mountain Valley Rehabilitation Hospital.”