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Eileen Guerinot Bogar Returns to Her Life as an Attorney and Single Mom

Ellen Bogar

Eileen Bogar’s recovery was not at all what her acute care physicians predicted. After suffering a severe bilateral brainstem stroke in mid-December 2012, she was tucked away in the intensive care unit at St. Luke’s Hospital in Houston for five weeks. She was on a ventilator for the first two weeks of her hospitalization, and was still being fed through a gastrostomy tube when she was admitted to TIRR Memorial Hermann in January 2013.

“My outlook was pretty bleak based on what my acute care doctors told me,” says Eileen, a criminal defense attorney in Houston. “I was told I would probably need two people to provide care for me 24/7 for the rest of my life.”

Located just above the spinal cord and only a half-inch in diameter, the brainstem controls all of the basic activities of the central nervous system, including consciousness, breathing, heartbeat and blood pressure. It also controls speech, swallowing, hearing and eye movements. Brainstem strokes – the most dangerous stroke a person can have – can impair any or all of these functions.

Despite the dire predictions, within six months Eileen was walking, driving, practicing law and back to being a single mom to her 10-year-old son, E. J. Bogar. After five weeks of inpatient therapy at TIRR Memorial Hermann under the direction of brain injury specialist Jacob Joseph, M.D., she continued regaining her skills at TIRR Memorial Hermann Outpatient Rehabilitation at the Kirby Glen Center through June 2013.

“I was more scared as an inpatient at TIRR Memorial Hermann than at St. Luke’s because I didn’t know what my life would be like,” Eileen says. “But I had great therapists and a wonderful doctor, who was very diligent and saw me every morning, at lunch and before he left for the day.”

In September 2013, she enrolled in TIRR Memorial Hermann’s Strength Unlimited program at Kirby Glen three days a week. Strength Unlimited provides specialized strength and cardiovascular training to people with physical disabilities caused by neurological injury. The program offers clients the opportunity to improve strength, fitness, flexibility and emotional wellbeing in a fully accessible environment with trained professional staff.

“It’s a very balanced program,” she says. “We do a lot of core work, weights, jogging and work on balance, which is especially important for me. I’ve continued with Strength Unlimited because it keeps me strong. It’s like having a personal trainer who understands stroke – for an hour, three times a week. My balance continues to improve. I realize now that rehab is forever. We don’t get better in just one day.”

Eileen says she will always be indebted to TIRR Memorial Hermann. “It was a much more positive experience than I thought it was going to be. They’re very careful and thorough and make you believe you can do whatever you want if you believe you can. They gave me hope at a time when I really needed it. Not only did they give me back my life, they gave back a life worth living.”