When John Boone awoke the morning of February 23, the day seemed ordinary enough. He was on a business trip in Jackson, Michigan, and the only strange thing about his morning was he couldn’t lift his left leg over the hotel shower’s threshold.
He ignored his uncooperative leg and went to work. His day went as anticipated, except for trouble going up and down stairs. He attributed the problem to his heavy boots.
After his 100-plus mile drive home from Jackson, John offered to help his wife around the house. As he was carrying something downstairs, he tripped down a few steps. John knew something was wrong. He realized he’d been shaky throughout the day, and decided to call his doctor. John’s blood pressure had sky-rocketed, so his doctor sent him to the emergency room.
A CAT scan showed a slight bleed on the right side of his brain. John was having a stroke. Immediately, he was rushed to Spectrum Health.
After more than a week of being in the hospital, John returned home. Within 20 minutes, before he’d even begun settling in, his whole left side went numb. John knew what was happening. “Call 9-1-1!” he shouted to his wife, “I’m having another stroke!”
The Boones’ across-the-street neighbor is a physician’s assistant (PA), specializing in neurological surgery. She saw Mrs. Boone’s panicked call to the medics and rushed over to assess John before help arrived. Over the phone, she prepped Spectrum’s neurology department for John’s arrival and gave instructions to the emergency medical technicians.
“She was directing the whole thing,” John reflected, “It was so cool having this PA right across the street.”
As John lay on the floor waiting for the ambulance to arrive, he prayed: “Lord Jesus, are you going to take me home?”
John wasn’t sure whether he’d survive the major stroke, but he was certain the Lord was taking care of him.
“It was like the Lord was drawing me close, saying,’ Trust me. You’re in my hands.’”
When John arrived at Spectrum, doctors discovered the bleeding in his brain was a result of an AV malformation, an abnormal connection between veins and arteries. To stop the bleeding, an interventional radiologist essentially super glued the clump of rebellious arteries and veins. If the procedure hadn’t been a success, John would’ve had to have major surgery on his brain the following day.
John had a choice to make. When it was time for John to choose his rehabilitation care hospital, John chose Mary Free Bed.
“We chose Mary Free Bed because of several factors. It has a national reputation. We consulted several medical professionals and people who had been patients here, and they all said the same thing — if you’ve got a choice, go to Mary Free Bed.”
On March 13, John checked into Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. On arrival, John couldn’t even sit up. He had no movement in his left leg, arm, or shoulder. Right away, he started 7-day-a-week therapy. From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., John went to occupational, physical, and speech therapy sessions.
“It was tiring, it was intense, but it was focused on my needs and my recovery.”
The progress was slow, but steady. Each day, John’s occupational therapists came to his room in the morning and helped him relearn to brush his teeth, get dressed, and feed himself.
“You’ve got to have a real gift to be a caregiver… to care for me in the shape I was in. I couldn’t go to the bathroom by myself, but here these people are — caring about my every need — smiling, being friendly, and just being wonderful.”
John was spurred on by support from his family, church community, encouraging visits from former stroke patients, and by the devotion of his rehabilitation team.
“One of the things I love about this place is that it’s all devoted to the patient. It’s a huge team effort—it’s so obvious. The nursing staff, the nurse techs, the doctors, the therapists—they’re all working with you as a patient. It’s a big plan—they’re working through the plan and they all communicate,” John said, touched by the compassion he experienced.
On May 4, nine weeks after his major stroke, it was evident that John had come a long way. Unable to sit up when he first arrived at Mary Free Bed, it seemed unlikely that John would achieve his goal of walking out of the hospital. But when the day came, John grabbed a walker and marched out to the car.
Despite saying that he “can be crabby” and “impatient,” John said he was blessed with an “attitude of gratitude” for his caregivers, supporters, and God’s faithfulness.
“I just felt God’s presence and it was so tangible through this whole thing. The sense of trust just compounded,” John explained, “I never had a doubt in my mind that I was in His care.”
John now walks without a cane and has completed driver’s rehabilitation. Crediting his recovery to Mary Free Bed, John plans on giving back by attending the Mary Free Bed Stroke Support Group and volunteering to encourage other stroke patients.
“This place does miracles — and I’m a living miracle.”
Lauren Kastner is studying journalism and public relations at Baylor University in Texas. This summer, she’s working as a marketing coordinator at Mary Free Bed to hone her interviewing and writing skills. She’s enjoying her time getting to know patients and helping them tell their stories.