Joseraul's Story

Joseraul stands and smiles after therapy.

In 2022, Joseraul Rodriguez left the beaches of Varadero, Cuba, for a better life in Miami, Fl. His childhood friend soon joined him and they filled their days working as hotel staff and evenings at soccer matches, local restaurants and nightclubs. Life was good until a car accident changed everything.

Joseraul was severely injured when the car he was driving hit a wall. Paramedics treated and transported an unconscious Joseraul to the hospital where he was diagnosed with a brain injury, collapsed lung and multiple fractures, cuts and bruises. Joseraul was intubated to help him breathe and underwent surgery for facial fractures. A feeding tube was inserted into his stomach for nutrition and he spent the next 20 days in a medically induced coma to allow his brain to heal.

After several more weeks of recovery, Joseraul stabilized and his medical team recommended more intensive inpatient rehabilitation.

Five weeks after the accident, he was transferred to West Gables Rehabilitation Hospital. There, a physician-led team of occupational, physical, speech, and recreational therapists, developed a treatment plan to help Joseraul rebuild his life.

During his first session with physical therapy, a ventilated Joseraul required assistance to stand from his wheelchair. He could only walk ten feet with the assistance of a rolling walker. As his sessions progressed, Joseraul began walking longer distances and propelling himself in his wheelchair. Therapists also had him work on stepping up and down on elevated surfaces, picking up weighted objects from the floor and walking on unstable surfaces, successfully increasing his strength and balance.

Returning to work as a server was a key goal for Joseraul. His team simulated work tasks by having him search for and retrieve cones at various heights throughout the gym. He then balanced the cones on a tray while searching for more. Throughout these exercises he navigated obstacles, stepping over objects and traversing ramps, curbs and stairs. Therapists upped the ante, pushing Joseraul to dribble a ball while walking. Throughout his therapy sessions, his mother was offering support from the sidelines after having traveled from Cuba to be with him. 

Occupational therapy (OT) focused on activities to increase Joseraul’s balance, strength, endurance and range of motion. He did sorting and organizing activities while standing. In addition, he practiced grooming, bathing and dressing independently. OT also educated Joseraul and his mother on safety, energy conservation techniques and adaptive equipment that would help him with reaching and dressing activities.

In speech language therapy (SLP), a key goal included liberating Joseraul from the ventilator. Respiratory therapy monitored short, timed trials off the ventilator, allowing Joseraul’s lungs to build strength by functioning on their own. After four days, he was freed from the ventilator, breathing independently.

Therapists then addressed Joseraul’s swallowing difficulties (dysphagia). Slowly they introduced him to thin then thicker liquids and pureed foods – monitoring him every step of the way to ensure he could safely tolerate increasingly solid foods. At a key juncture, his team conducted a successful swallow study enabling Joseraul to begin a diet of more solid foods. Joseraul said the day his feeding tube was removed was the day he felt of wave of accomplishment.

Recreational therapy also played a role in Joseraul’s rehabilitation, lifting his spirits as he tackled the challenges of his recovery with his favorite sport, soccer, and a four-legged member of the care team. Joseraul kicked soccer balls with weights on his legs which improved his muscle strength and coordination. He also tossed and caught balloons which mimicked a ball coming at him from different directions. Those ball handling activities were put to the test when West Gables’ facility dog, Alma IV, would push balls to Joseraul for some extra skill building and play time.

After two weeks of inpatient rehabilitation at West Gables, Joseraul was independently walking, talking, eating and thinking. He looks forward to returning to his apartment, spending time with family and friends and playing soccer.

He shared his key to progress in rehabilitation: remaining focused on the goal and being patient with yourself. “If you do your part, success will follow.”