Dennis' Story

Dennis and Marsha in matching red sweaters in front of a Christmas tree.

Dennis Brown, a 65-year-old hair stylist, had recently relocated to the Valley from Flagstaff and was enjoying playing with his new puppy in the backyard. He was bending over to clean up after the dog and passed out upon standing. When he came to after roughly 45 minutes, Dennis was covered in blood. His puppy, who had not left his side, was licking his face.

Dennis was rushed to HonorHealth Deer Valley Medical Center, where he underwent an MRI and other imaging. In addition to having a concussion, he also was diagnosed with central cord syndrome, an acute spinal cord injury, which is the most common form of an incomplete spinal cord injury characterized by impairment in the arms and hands and, to a lesser extent, in the legs.

Dennis immediately underwent surgery to stabilize his spine and spent the next several days in the ICU. After learning he would require inpatient rehabilitation because of significant functional limitations, Dennis and his wife, Marsha, chose HonorHealth Rehabilitation Hospital.

Upon admission, Dennis’ primary goal was to walk again. He required the maximum amount of assistance from his therapists and nurses in order to get in and out of bed, eat, use the bathroom and get dressed.  It took several people just to help him stand. Dennis’ physician-led team devised a plan to help him regain his strength and mobility.

In physical therapy, Dennis and his therapists worked on aerobic and endurance conditioning to build strength. They also focused on proper body mechanics/ergonomics, fall prevention and using adaptive equipment as Dennis slowly became more mobile. Both physical and occupational therapists utilized a variety of techniques and equipment to aid in his rehabilitation, including a platform walker, neuromuscular electrical stimulation for upper extremities and a specialized cushion for his wheelchair designed to redistribute pressure and prevent skin breakdown. Dennis’ therapy team also worked on energy conservation techniques and myofascial release, a hands-on technique that involves applying gentle sustained pressure into the connective tissue to eliminate pain and restore motion.

During his time at HonorHealth Rehabilitation Hospital, Dennis made great strides in his recovery. He recalls his “a-ha” moment occurring when realizing he could pull his shorts up by himself and shower independently. Dennis credits his wife for continuing to motivate him throughout his journey.  She visited him almost every day and was actively involved in family training so she would be well equipped to help care for Dennis when he returned home.

After four weeks at HonorHealth Rehabilitation Hospital, Dennis was ready to be discharged.  He made significant improvements during his stay, having improved strength, endurance, balance and ability to transfer. Dennis also met his goal of being able to walk.  On his final day, he was able to use a front-wheel walker to travel more than 300 feet without any assistance.

Dennis stated that he was most looking forward to “getting back to normal life at home with Marsha and my dogs.” He plans to continue his rehabilitation at home with the help of outpatient therapy. Dennis had high praise for the interdisciplinary team at HonorHealth Rehabilitation Hospital, saying, “It’s awesome how they worked as a team” to help him to regain function, accomplish his go regain function, accomplish his goals and return to his life.