On a day that represents freedom to most Americans, Steven Albright had a different fight for his independence. On July 4, Stephen woke up, put on his glasses, and headed downstairs to spend the morning with his wife, Peggy.
As he reached for his phone, he knew something wasn’t right.
“I went to grab my phone to look at Facebook or some messages, and my left hand wouldn’t work,” Stephen recalled. “My left leg kind of flipped out and wouldn’t work either.”
Peggy quickly recognized the signs and called 911—Stephen was having a stroke.
Fighting for his life
At Kettering Medical Center, Peter Bouz, MD, performed a thrombectomy on Stephen—a procedure where a neurologist removes a blood clot from a blood vessel in the brain. The procedure was successful, but Stephen was still worried about recovery. He needed to regain a lot of his speech and mobility—and quickly.
“My daughter was getting married on August 10,” Stephen said. “I was bound and determined that I was going to be there one way or another.”
Stephen worked with a few therapists for rehab, one of which was Ralph Chabot, an occupational therapist at Kettering Health Network.
“I ended up taking over his case when he had a wedding in two weeks,” Ralph said. “Just getting him to the wedding was going to be, I thought, near impossible.”
But attending wasn’t Stephen’s only goal. He wanted to dance with his daughter.
Just a week before Stephen’s daughter’s wedding, it took three people and a machine to help him take four steps.
“He was very determined to get to that goal, so every single session at the end, we’d do some standing and just balancing, just swaying to the song that he was going to dance to with his daughter,” Ralph said.
As the days went on, Stephen’s condition continued to improve, pushing him to do just a little more each day.
“We’d walk 10 feet, and I was like, ‘OK, fine, if we can go that far, we can go 12 feet,’” Stephen said.
Stephen worked with Ralph to prepare for the logistics—how to safely use the bathroom, what to do if he becomes fatigued, getting in and out of the car, and keeping his balance throughout the night.
The big day
When Stephen first entered therapy, his whole left side was paralyzed. Just a week from the wedding, he wasn’t able to stand, let alone walk.
But sure enough, on the day of the wedding, Stephen danced with his daughter and his wife.
“It meant the world to have those pictures,” Stephen said, becoming emotional.
“That’s why I became a therapist,” Ralph said. “To help people like that do what they want to do. It was a very special moment for sure.”
Stephen continues to set goals for himself as he progresses in recovery. His church is starting a new ministry for disabled people, and Stephen is involved with making the church more accessible.