HealthSouth on How to Survive and Thrive – LIVING WELL Magazine

Surviving and Thriving: How HealthSouth helped coma patient return to independence

By Kaci L. Eaves, HealthSouth, LIVING WELL Magazine

Fifty-five-year-old Ray Bourque and his son run an air conditioning and refrigeration business in Katy, Texas, near Houston. Naturally, they stay pretty busy, seldom stopping for “down time.”  In March 2011, the elder Bourque traveled to Burleson, Texas, for contract work, where he continued to stay busy. One morning, driving into work, he felt light-headed and weak, so he contacted his primary care physician in Katy. She told him to go to the nearest clinic to have his blood checked, as he had been on the blood thinner Coumadin since 2009. A hospital was close by, so he checked himself into the emergency department there.

In the emergency department, they discovered that he had lost 60% of his blood and had become anemic, necessitating several blood transfusions. Shortly thereafter, Bourque went into respiratory failure and was intubated in order to facilitate ventilation of his lungs, which had begun to build up fluid. A CT (x-ray computed tomography) scan revealed diverticulosis, diverticulitis, and an abscess formation on his colon. A few hours later, he went into septic shock and suffered liver failure as well as acute renal failure, requiring dialysis. A lot had happened on his way to work!

Bourque slipped into a coma where he remained for the next 17 days. Friends and family were called to make the journey from Katy to Burleson because doctors did not believe he would survive.  “The machines were keeping me alive,” Bourque says.  But miraculously, on March 21, he opened his eyes and squeezed a loved one’s hand. His physician was dumbfounded. Doctors continued to marvel as Bourque prepared for discharge from the hospital just eight days later.

When Bourque left the acute care hospital on March 29, he was transported to HealthSouth City View Rehabilitation Hospital in Fort Worth, where he participated in intensive inpatient occupational, physical, and speech therapy. Having been in a vegetative state for more than two weeks, Bourque’s entire body was weak and deconditioned. “I needed therapy to strengthen my legs so I could walk, and strengthen my arms so I could hold the walker while I walked,” he says.

Bourque and his therapists report he was in a wheelchair when he arrived at HealthSouth, and three days later he walked the halls of the hospital (nearly four hundred feet) with his walker. Physicians and nurses were nearby to manage any spikes in blood pressure and heart rate that occurred during his therapy, but his progress went astonishingly well.

Therapists gauge a patient’s progress by tracking their FIM (functional independence measurement) scores. Bourque’s FIM score total when he was admitted to HealthSouth was 62; two weeks later, his FIM score total was 91. On April 12, Bourque’s rehabilitation physician at HealthSouth, Dr. Karim Meghani, along with his nurses, therapists, and case managers, decided Bourque was well enough to go home with his family. It was no small feat for a man who had been unresponsive in an intensive care unit a few weeks prior.

Bourque received home therapy when he returned to Katy in order to bridge the gap between “almost independent” and “completely independent.” Now he is able to walk around his neighborhood without his walker, and perform all of his activities of daily living (known as ADLs in the therapy world) completely on his own. His need for dialysis has diminished, as has his overwhelming fatigue. Bourque has even been able to return to work in a modified capacity, helping out his son with business administration from home.

In the five weeks that Ray Bourque was hospitalized (including his stay at HealthSouth), he was seen by more than 40 physicians (specializing in pulmonology, nephrology, and physiatry, to name a few), lost more than 35 pounds, participated in nearly 45 therapy sessions, received more than 40 blood transfusions, and experienced one phenomenal recovery.

“The therapists at HealthSouth that encouraged me every day to keep pushing to get better made all the difference. I wanted to go back to work and I knew that was the only way to get there,” he explains. Bourque is expected to return to work in full capacity within the next three to six months. If the past is any indication of the future, it may be even sooner.

For more information regarding inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation, as well as other services offered at HealthSouth, please call 817-370-4760, or visit