Intimidating Opponent

Former Olympic sprinter competes against stroke, and wins.

In 1980, Fredrick Taylor earned a spot on the US Olympic Team in track and field, qualifying for the 200-meter sprint. He never ran that race, though, because of the US-led boycott of the Moscow Games to protest the Soviet Union’s 1979 invasion of Afghanistan.

Fredrick Taylor

Fredrick went through rehab after a mild stroke in early 2021 and now feels “90 percent better.”

“I was disappointed, but the US Olympic Committee had other things planned for us,” Fredrick explains. “We wound up going to Germany, Japan, China and other countries that didn’t participate in the Olympics instead.

“The 200 meters was my only race for the Olympic Team, but I ran the 200, 400, 100 meters and more in college. I attended Miami Dade Junior College in Miami and then Texas Southern University in Houston.”

During his collegiate career, Fredrick achieved great success in track and field and earned numerous recognitions. While at Miami Dade, he was a two-time junior college state champion in the 500-meter event.

“At Texas Southern, I won the Southwestern Athletic Conference title in the 400 and 200 meters, and I won the 400 meters in the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics),” Fredrick announces. In 1979, he was selected the NAIA’s Most Outstanding Athlete.

But in early 2021, Fredrick faced his most intimidating opponent.

“I suffered a mild stroke,” Fredrick discloses. “I didn’t realize it right away because it was my first time having a stroke. I didn’t know what a stroke looked or felt like. It happened on a Thursday, but I didn’t go to the hospital until that Saturday.

“A friend took me to the hospital because I was off balance and walking sideways. I was tilting to the right when I walked. I was also having trouble using my right arm. By Saturday, I knew something was wrong, and when I got to the hospital they said I had a stroke.”

The staff at the hospital discovered that Fredrick’s blood pressure was alarmingly high. High blood pressure can cause the arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the brain to rupture or clog, which can cause a stroke.

“My blood pressure went up, but I didn’t know it. I thought it was fine,” Fredrick maintains. “The doctor told me there was a little clot in the back of my head.”

The hospital staff stabilized Fredrick’s blood pressure. They recommended rehabilitation to regain his balance and the function lost in his arm. Fredrick chose Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Treasure Coast in Vero Beach for his care.

Seal of Approval

Encompass Health has earned the Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval® for Disease Specific Care Certification in stroke rehabilitation. The Joint Commission is an independent, not-for-profit organization that accredits health care institutions. Joint Commission accreditation safeguards the quality of care provided to patients.

“To earn stroke certification, Encompass Health must successfully comply with national standards to effectively utilize evidence-based clinical practice guidelines to manage and optimize care,” explains Dawn Bucaj, RN, BSN, senior rehab liaison at Encompass Health. “It involves applying advanced technologies, intensive therapies and expert knowledge to create innovative solutions within our stroke services.”

Patients admitted to Encompass Health’s stroke program have been diagnosed with an acute stroke (CVA, or cerebrovascular accident) or previously had a stroke and are experiencing residual deficits and complications, explains Jennifer Novarro, LPN, at Encompass Health.

“The length of stay depends on the patient’s progress, but on average is from one to two weeks. There is no minimum or maximum time, just as in an acute care hospital,” she enlightens. “It all depends on the patient as there is no one-size-fits-all formula for stoke rehabilitation.”

Jennifer stresses that stroke program treatments are tailored to each patient’s specific needs and goals. But there are certain aspects of the program common to all patients.

“Our stroke program uses a multidisciplinary team approach that includes physicians, therapists, registered nurses and our pharmacy team, as well as case managers,” she describes. “This approach provides patients with the best chance to move forward and return to the community and their normal lives.”

Stroke patients at Encompass Health are evaluated daily by a physician. Patients receive at least three hours of rehabilitative therapy per day and 24-hour care by registered nurses certified in rehabilitation.

“As part of our stroke program, we use a mixture of physical, occupational and speech therapy,” Jennifer discloses. “At least two of these therapy modalities are always incorporated in patients care. It all depends on the patients specific needs.”

Fredrick received all three during his stay, Jennifer says.

“The therapists had me do different exercises that helped me,” Fredrick recounts. “The doctor came by every morning. He took my blood pressure and started me on blood pressure pills, which I still take. And the staff showed me how to eat right. Even though I had a mild stroke, I have to take it seriously because I could have another one.”

The physicians and staff at Encompass Health understand that many conditions experienced after a stroke respond to specialized rehabilitation. As a hospital, Encompass Health is equipped to provide that treatment.

“In 2016, the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association recommended that all stroke patients receive acute rehabilitation,” Dawn reports. “The reason is the advanced technologies used in acute rehab enable neuroplasticity, the regeneration of nerve cells in the brain.

“Encompass Health is the only acute rehab facility in the Vero Beach area. We have the advanced technologies and vast gyms that provide the type and amount of therapy required to nurture neuroplasticity. Our program gives stroke patients the best opportunity to get brain cells functioning again following a stroke.”

“Beautiful People”

Fredrick stayed at Encompass Health for nine days after his stroke. He achieved great results with his therapy and was discharged back to his home. Fredrick credits the Encompass Health staff for his success.

“I praise the people at Encompass Health,” he enthuses. “They’re very good, beautiful people and really nice. They got me back to walking straight. I have my balance back, and my right arm is fine now.

“While I was at Encompass Health, I saw many people older than me who were working hard. I had it in my mind that I was going to work hard to get out of the hospital in good shape. I did everything the therapists asked me to do, even when it was hard.”

Fredrick admits the effects of a stroke can be difficult to live with at times.

“I feel good but still need to rest,” he reveals. “I think about what they told me at Encompass Health, that I could have another stroke. I’m trying to eat right, which has been difficult for me. All my life, I ate a lot of cheese, pork and salt, and now I have to cut back on those things.

“I’m walking fine, but the blood pressure pills make me a little dizzy. Sometimes, I have to stop what I’m doing and rest for a few minutes, then it goes away. Right now, I’m feeling about 90 percent better. Sometimes, I think I’m 100 percent, but I’m not quite there yet.”

©FHCN article by Patti DiPanfilo. Photo by Jordan Pysz. js
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