Leader Blues

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

TOP STORY >> Walking again is the best gift of all

James Beard walks out of the center with his mother Valerie after therapy.

By Kelly Adcock

Special to The Leader

When James Beard of Beebe sits down for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow, he will have something especially wonderful to be thankful for – the ability to walk.

On Oct. 16, 2008, Beard had a stroke at the age of 45. The blood clot that formed in the right side of his brain caused the left side of his body to become so impaired that he said a doctor in the hospital told him that he would never walk again.

“I was bedridden,” Beard, a tall, proud man who had been a truck driver before the illness, remembered. “In the hospital, I couldn’t even lift myself … they had to put a sheet under me and had to use a mechanical lift to move me.”

He was in the hospital for about two weeks before his insurance and financial situation forced the decision of where (and if) he would continue rehabilitation. Although one doctor gave him a bleak outlook, Beard said that other patients in the hospital, family and friends encouraged him to stay positive. But it wasn’t until he became a patient at Beebe Retirement Center that he began to realize that he could recover from his debilitating condition.

“If it weren’t for Beebe Retire-ment Center and Dr. (Dewey) McAfee I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Beard said.

A patient at the center for nearly a year, Beard not only received physical and occupational therapy, but he received the encouragement needed to know in his mind and his heart that recovery was possible and he would someday walk again.

And he did just that.

On a recent day, with residents huddled around him at the front door to say goodbye and his mother by his side, Beard walked out the door and headed home.

He will now receive additional rehabilitative services at Arkansas Rehabilitation Center in Hot Springs, where he said they will help him earn his GED and get another job. He hopes to go back to truck driving or perhaps become a farmer.

Beard was, of course, not a typical nursing-home resident. But, he said, the friendships formed there among the staff and other residents will not be forgotten. This was evident as he and other residents swapped addresses and phone numbers before he left.

“I spent a lot of time with the other residents … you just build a rapport with each other and give each other encouragement,” he said, noting that he especially enjoyed the exercise groups in which he was involved.

He also became active in other events that took place over the year he was there.

At Easter, he dressed as the Easter Bunny for photos with area children to help raise money for Alzheimer’s research and education.

Plus, he got the help he needed in return. He praised Brenda Chapman, the administrator. “Whatever I needed, she fought for it … whether it was insurance or helping get my Medicaid,” he said.

Beard said he was also impressed by the nursing staff. “The nurses at Beebe Retirement Center are awesome … I never got sick and they love you like family when you are there.”

Since he has gone home, Beard said he has seen families and staff members from Beebe Retirement Center around town and in stores. “They come up and hug you … they don’t forget you, so obviously you know they care about you,” Beard said.