Thomas' Story

Thomas Hairston stands with a walker during therapy.

Thomas Hairston, a Bahamian police officer, student and artist resides in the Bahamas with his mother and sister. Typically, the 33-year-old patrols the island streets without issue, but one fateful day he suffered a violent assault that left him severely injured and in a coma.

Rushed to the local hospital, the medical staff performed a craniotomy to relieve pressure on his brain. Once stabilized, Thomas was transferred to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, FL for more specialized care. There, doctors diagnosed a traumatic brain injury – he had a contusion on the right side of his head, a bone fracture in his skull and small blood clots in his brain due to the assault. Thomas’ medical team performed a tracheostomy, creating an opening in his windpipe, to support his ability to breathe and inserted a feeding tube directly into his stomach to deliver nutrition. While in acute care, Thomas regained consciousness, although disoriented and confused. With his change in awareness, physicians recommended inpatient rehabilitation and for that, his family chose West Gables Rehabilitation Hospital.

Upon arrival, Thomas was unable to move or perform basic tasks such as washing his hands without assistance. Thomas required a mechanical lift to get out of bed. His physician-led team assessed Thomas and developed a personalized therapy plan that helped put him on a path to recovery. Concerned about her son, Thomas’ mother moved to Miami to support his recovery journey.

Day after day, Thomas persevered in physical therapy with one goal in mind, to walk again.

As his body slowly healed, Thomas underwent multiple surgeries to address his leg issues. Due to lack of movement, bone tissue had developed in the soft tissue in his hip joints causing pain and complications.

Physical therapy focused on addressing Thomas’s mobility. Initially, they worked on sitting at the edge of the bed – to help build his core strength allowing him to be able to sit and stand independently. The team also had Thomas do chest press exercises while laying down, adding to his arm strength which permitted him to use a transfer board to move from his bed to a chair. Therapists gradually added the parallel bars to his therapeutic exercises which powered Thomas’ ability to stand and later propel himself in a wheelchair.

After three months of intense rehabilitation, Thomas took his first steps with his rolling walker. The therapy gym erupted in applause. From those first steps, he graduated to transferring out of bed on his own and walking short distances with his walker. Thomas’ therapists added distance and obstacles to his walking sessions to improve his agility and prepare him for discharge.

During occupational therapy, Thomas focused on increasing his strength, endurance and ability to handle self-care tasks. He also relearned housekeeping tasks in a simulated home environment.  Therapists added blaze pods to Thomas’ therapy – a smart training device that prompts interaction from the patient in response to flashing lights. The exercise improves hand-eye coordination, and strengthens the brain and its neural networks.

With the encouragement of his recreational therapists, Thomas was able to reignite his love of drawing and painting. He spent hours at his craft, eliciting a sense of both relaxation and joy. Expressing himself through art also met the dual purpose of refining his fine motor skills while socializing with others during group therapy sessions.

After four months at West Gables Rehabilitation Hospital, Thomas was ready for discharge. He could now walk 180 feet with his rolling walker and was able to independently manage bathing, dressing and grooming himself. Best of all, he reconnected with his love of art.

Thomas’ determination to overcome his obstacles fueled his motivation. To others on a similar journey, he shared: “Stay motivated and have faith that you will get better, push through the hard days.”