Not Giving Up

The story of Thomas Stewart

Not giving up is important to Thomas Stewart after an injury sent him to the hospital then St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute. In July 2010, Thomas was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was helping get a beached dock back into the water. He and his family tied the dock to their boat and began pulling it.

“It was too much pressure for the boat cleat,” said Thomas, describing how the boat cleat snapped free from the boat, turning the rope into a slingshot.

“The cleat hit me in the top of the head, continued for 250 feet, then went through a lake house window so fast the window didn’t shatter. It put a hole in it,” he said. “It was moving at a very high velocity.”

In the moments that followed, Thomas’ youngest son, Derek Stewart, used the trauma training he’d received in the Air Force to help save his dad’s life.

“He pieced my skull back together and had people apply just enough pressure so I didn’t bleed to death and it didn’t cause the brain to swell either,” said Thomas.

After three weeks in the hospital and five weeks in nursing care, Thomas transferred to St. Luke’s to begin recovering from the traumatic brain injury.

“Initially, all I could do was move my eyeballs,” he recalled. He couldn’t feed himself, shave, move his arms or walk.

But through his therapies Thomas made continuous strides to regain as much independence, strength and mobility as possible while relearning basics like how to roll over and stand up.

After one week he could move his arms. After two weeks he could sit up. By six weeks, when he was discharged to outpatient care, he could lift 15 pound free weights with each arm.

“I got to the point where I could more or less stand by myself,” he said, noting he is still working at regaining the ability to walk.

On top of the physical exercises designed to maximize his recovery, Thomas said the staff at St. Luke’s worked with him to navigate daily life, like how to get up and over curbs in a manual wheelchair.

For Thomas, who wrote a book about his experience, “the key is to not give up and to not give in. There is always opportunity to improve and St. Luke’s will definitely assist in that.”
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St. Luke's Rehabilitation Institute
711 S. Cowley St.
Spokane, WA 99202-1330
509.473.6000

Inpatient Information: (509) 473-6058
Outpatient Information: (509) 473-6869