Xavier Younger, 21, works as a bar cook and spends his spare time hanging out with his family which includes seven siblings. He also likes playing sports, listening to music and riding his bicycle. Xavier’s active lifestyle took a hit in January when he began experiencing strange symptoms.
He was walking home from a friend’s house one evening when he stumbled and fell in his front yard. When he woke up the next morning, he felt sick and was still unable to walk without stumbling. After falling twice, his best friend, Jinnah, took him to the hospital. He was admitted for testing and observation. In addition to balance issues, Xavier was experiencing progressive left-sided weakness, facial twitches, slurred speech and vision changes. An MRI indicated multiple sclerosis. After a few weeks in acute care, he was ready for rehabilitation and transferred to TriHealth Rehabilitation Hospital, where he spent his 22nd birthday. Xavier appeared to be improving, but soon began experiencing a new symptom of numbness and tingling in his right arm.
He transferred back to the acute care hospital where he was treated with IV steroids and plasma exchange therapy, which is the removal, treatment and return of blood plasma used to treat some neurological disorders. After doctors noticed a significant decrease in his mobility, balance, coordination, core strength and endurance, they determined Xavier would benefit from further inpatient rehabilitation in order to maximize safety and the independence he needed to return home.
Xavier headed back to TriHealth Rehabilitation Hospital determined to work hard and go back home. He shared, “I had numbness all over my body, especially on the left side. I could barely move at all, I couldn’t walk and needed assistance with feeding myself. I definitely could not take myself to the bathroom or shower alone, I needed help with everything.”
Xavier’s goals included being able to walk again and regain his independence.
In physical therapy, he worked on core and trunk strengthening, which he feels was key to his recovery. His initial focus was on sitting up unassisted. After that, he worked on standing upright followed by walking with assistance in the parallel bars. “Walking in the parallel bars helped get my legs stronger,” said Xavier. He also utilized the LiteGait harness system, a device that simultaneously controls weight bearing, posture and balance. As a result of all of these strengthening, coordination and balance activities, Xavier began walking greater distances with less assistance.
Xavier’s occupational therapists focused on core and upper extremity strengthening and coordination by using weights. Therapists taught Xavier how to perform self-care tasks while in a seated position, allowing greater independence. They also recommended medical equipment that would make his transition home easier such as a tub bench. “Working on my core strength with crunches and using adaptive equipment like the bench and hand bars on the toilet helped me a great deal,” said Xavier.
Xavier’s parents provided a lot of love, support and positive feedback during his recovery. His mom also attended family training several times so she would be prepared to help Xavier when he returned home.
After two weeks, plus the additional three weeks during his first stay, Xavier was ready to go home. He most looked forward to being with all of his siblings again. At the time of discharge, Xavier was walking up to 150 feet with a walker and able to navigate 13 steps with a single handrail. He was also able to dress, bathe and go to the bathroom by himself with assistance only for balance. “I can walk now with a rolling walker, and I can walk without one too.”
Reflecting on his strength and perseverance through his journey, Xavier shared, “I learned that I can overcome anything that happens. Keep your head high, trust your nurses and therapists because they do a wonderful job and will make sure that you get better.”