One March day, 50-year-old Timothy (Tim) Eastley was packing for a Moab Jeep Safari trip after a long day of snowboarding. While packing, he started feeling sick and wondered if it was COVID-19. The next day his wife, Sandy, found him on the bathroom floor and took him to a nearby clinic in Pleasant View, Utah. They told him he was having a stroke and needed to go to the ER. In the emergency department, he received a CT scan. It showed a large right cerebellar hemispheric infarct with obstructing hydrocephalus. In other words, he had a stroke. He was immediately sent to the operating room where they performed a decompressive craniectomy to relieve the pressure on his brain.
There were no warning signs for Tim to know he would have a stroke. He explained, “Before my stroke, I had 20 years of almost 100 days of snowboarding, and when it was nice out, I was mountain biking. I mountain biked three days a week, probably 50 miles a week. I ate well, I ate a lot of chicken, and I had low blood pressure. In November, I had a physical and got a clean bill of health from my family physician.”
Tim, who lived an active and healthy lifestyle, was now left in a hospital bed with paralysis to his right side. His condition required intensive physical and occupational therapy. Speech therapy would help him with swallowing and with his diminished cognition. There was a long fight ahead, which Tim was ready to battle. But it wouldn’t be that easy.
While in the hospital, Tim contracted meningitis. His long journey to recovery was extended by a month. One of the first memories he recalls was in the hospital. He fell while trying to get out of bed and laid on the floor until the hospital staff found him. “A stroke is a different beast; it isn’t just a physical problem, it’s a mental problem,” he said. After a month in the hospital, he transferred to Northern Utah Rehabilitation Hospital (NURH) for continued therapy. NURH is one of four Stroke Certified hospitals in Utah. He arrived in a wheelchair, unable to perform the most basic activities of daily living.
When talking about Tim’s stay, Sandy said, “The facilities have been great! We’ve seen great progress here, and the staff was great.”
“It’s amazing coming in here. Everyone knows our names, it’s like we’re part of the staff. Everyone has been so welcoming. We’ve never felt unwanted. It’s like our second home.”
After a month, Tim returned home, still in a wheelchair but able to do more things for himself. He continued his therapy with NURH’s Outpatient program. Sandy, who has become his chauffeur, drives him several days a week to his appointments.
When asked what he looks forward to most with recovery, Tim said, “I’m most excited about biking again. My son rides, the whole family rides. I really want to be able to ride again.” Tim has been an active member of the Utah High School Cycling League for several years. When asked what else excited him, he said, “Driving, camping, being on my own again, being my own person, and not having to worry about falling down.”
Although he still has a limp, Tim is now walking. His right side is still not as strong as it once was, but he continues to work on his recovery. He attributes his success to the therapy team at NURH. “The therapists know what’s going on, and they helped me. They’re so knowledgeable, and some of them know what the patients are feeling. They know what is wrong and how to make you better.”
When asked if he feels successful, Tim said, “If I wasn’t so young and active before, I’d say this is a success, right now. But I’d like to get back to being active again. So far, I feel like I’ve been successful. It’s only been a few months. Success over this obstacle would be to come out the other side and no one can tell.” Tim’s journey isn’t over. He still comes to NURH for physical therapy every week. He will continue his journey until he feels like he is his own person once again.