Benefis Physical Therapy Helps Young Stroke Patient Dream Big

A year ago, Mike Rice was relearning how to walk and eat after a stroke. Now he dreams of hiking into the Bob Marshall Wilderness to see the Chinese Wall for himself – a goal more in reach every day.

Mike, 41, had four months of outpatient physical therapy and six sessions of speech therapy through Benefis Outpatient Rehabilitative Therapies.

“Getting moving was the big thing,” he said. “You can’t just dwell on the negative. You have to push. The alternative is lying there and crying. No.”

The therapists played a key role, too.

“It was a partnership. The knowledge behind the therapy and the therapists’ motivation inspired me to push forward,” he said.

The simplest things – even drinking a glass of water – were a struggle. Yet one of the most significant hurdles was trusting in his progress.

“I was scared it would go away and I would revert,” he said. “That was always in the back of my mind.”

The stroke was “a wake-up call to take better care of myself,” he said.

Mike weighed 300 pounds when his stroke hit. He fell asleep after midnight on a Saturday only to wake 90 minutes later dizzy and nauseated. He faceplanted into the coffee table. He staggered to the bathroom and slept on the floor until crawling into his bedroom at sunrise. He got back on his feet a few hours later, ping-ponged down the hall, and collapsed again. He thought he could sleep off the dizziness.

Friends online noticed the absence of his “good morning” messages. They started calling. His mom was the one who noticed his voice sounded somewhat higher pitched. She suggested he get to the hospital to see if he’d had a stroke.

“I would never have assumed that it was a stroke at my age,” he said. “I thought it was no big deal.”

Mike finished his therapy so “now we’ll see,” he said. Just waking up feels like a bonus.

“I don’t try to control life anymore,” he said. “I just live it.”