- Associated Press - Monday, June 8, 2015

NORMAL, Ill. (AP) - Mike Trujillo had to relearn everything at age 18.

“I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t write,” Mike said. “I was bedridden and had a feeding tube.”

Mike suffered a massive hemorrhagic (bleeding) stroke on May 3, 2008, just three weeks before his high school graduation.

He was within minutes of death.

Seven years later, his speech and cognitive functions are back to normal, he walks using a cane and he will graduate later this month from Illinois State University as a double major in international business and marketing.

“My thing has been to prove people wrong,” Mike, 25, said last week in an interview in ISU’s State Farm Hall of Business.

Two years after his stroke, when Mike said he wanted to go to college, some people questioned whether he could do that when he was still in a wheelchair and undergoing therapy.

“I said I had to go to college and have been able to do that and even studied abroad in Spain,” said Mike, who speaks Spanish.

“It’s incredible,” said his mother, Linda Trujillo. “He’s gone from being bedridden to a wheelchair to a walker to a quad cane to a cane and he hasn’t once said ‘Why me?’”

“Mike is one of the most dedicated and motivated patients I ever had,” said Stacey Lane, physical therapist with the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. “To him, not succeeding was not an option. From the day he woke up from his stroke, he hasn’t stopped working. His recovery is beyond expectations and he’s beating the odds.”

But he won’t be satisfied until he’s 100 percent recovered from his stroke.

“No one has set that goal for me,” he said. “But I’ve told myself ‘It can be done.’”

Mike, a native of Bolingbrook, was diagnosed shortly after birth with afibrinogenemia, a bleeding disorder similar to hemophilia. From time to time, he would go to Edward Hospital in nearby Naperville to get a transfusion of cryoprecipitate, a source of fibrinogen vital to blood clotting. In recent years, treatment has been an injection every two weeks of RiaSTAP (fibrinogen), which helps the blood to clot.

Growing up with a bleeding disorder meant that Mike couldn’t play contact sports.

“That hurt but I was more physical than I should have been. I would still goof around on the playground and play tag and play basketball. I had a passion for basketball. I just wanted to be normal and I was for the most part.”

But he bruised easily and, in fourth grade while playing basketball, he suffered a subdural hematoma. That bleed between his brain and his skull required a craniotomy, a surgical removal of part of the left side of his skull to expose the brain to control the hemorrhage and relieve pressure on the skull.

“He had fun (growing up) but he always had to be more cautious than anyone else,” his mother recalled.

“He’s always been a very loving, caring kid,” Linda observed. “He’s also sarcastic and funny. He hasn’t let the bleeding disorder - or the stroke - ruin his life. They have made him stronger.”

On May 3, 2008, his parents - Jose and Linda - went to ISU to pick up their daughter, Desiree, to bring her back home for Linda’s birthday party.

Mike - recovering from mononucleosis - was tired and not feeling well and decided against making the trip.

When the family returned home in the afternoon, they couldn’t wake him up. Linda called 911 and paramedics took Mike to Edward Hospital where some of the medical staff was familiar with his bleeding disorder.

He had a CT (computed tomography) scan, doctors determined that he was having a hemorrhagic (bleeding) stroke and made plans to take him by helicopter to Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago.

But a neurosurgeon looked at the scans and told the Trujillos that he didn’t think their son would survive the 25-minute helicopter ride.

“It was heart-wrenching,” Linda said. “But we felt comfortable there, we trusted the doctor and we prayed to God that he would take care of our son. We found a priest. He said the last rites. Mike went into surgery while we prayed and cried.”

Opening the back of Mike’s head, doctors performed surgeries that stopped the bleed and relieved the pressure. Doctors also put Mike in a drug-induced coma to quiet his brain to keep it from swelling and inserted tubes for him to breathe and take nutrition.

Mike was in a coma for two weeks and in the intensive care unit for nine weeks.

Doctors never determined why he had the stroke. One theory is that his body was weakened by the mono, which may have caused a bleed that was worsened by his bleeding disorder.

Mike spent the next seven months in five different hospitals as he began his recovery and rehabilitation. His left vocal cord had been paralyzed and he had a vocal cord implant so he could eat on his own and speak again. He also had a deviated left eye that was surgically corrected and sustained hearing loss that remains in his left ear.

Working with speech, occupational and physical therapists, he slowly relearned how to sit up, speak, eat and write.

“It was difficult, to say the least,” Mike recalled. “I can remember them asking me things and I was like, ‘Crap, I can’t communicate what I have to say.’ I would try writing but my handwriting was bad. So I started with texting.”

The good news was he’s right-handed and the stroke affected his left side. By Dec. 17, 2008, he was speaking and using a wheelchair and was discharged from Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC).

But he continued outpatient therapy at RIC. “I could do morning or afternoon therapy,” Mike said. “I did both.

“I just really pushed myself,” he said. “But my family has been absolutely amazing through this whole experience and RIC is absolutely phenomenal.”

Lane, Mike’s outpatient physical therapist at RIC, said Mike’s stroke resulted in ataxia - lack of muscle control during walking. The resulting imbalance meant that Mike fell a lot.

“I worked with him on walking efficiently and on balance. I challenged him to start running on a treadmill with some assistance.

“He has such a joyful and positive attitude, it makes working with him as a therapist very easy and rewarding,” she said. “He motivated the other patients. When someone sets goals, works hard and has a positive attitude, the possibilities are endless.”

By March 2009, Mike was able to eat on his own so his feeding tube was removed. He enrolled in ISU while he was still using a wheelchair, but now has progressed to using a cane.

Mike completed outpatient rehabilitation last summer but continues to challenge himself.

“I communicate fairly well,” he said. “Cognitively, I’m pretty much where I was before. Physically, sometimes I look like I’m drunk when I’m walking.”

He wants to walk without his cane and play basketball again. He wants a job that allows for international travel so he can experience different cultures. Eventually, he wants to meet the woman of his dreams so they can settle down and have a family.

“When people tell me what I’ve done is amazing, I say ‘No it isn’t. It’s who I am.’ I tell people ‘You can get over whatever obstacle is placed in front of you.’”


Source: The (Bloomington) Pantagraph, https://bit.ly/1KbHzAZ


Information from: The Pantagraph, https://www.pantagraph.com

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