• Neurology Patient Stories

    #StrokeMonth: From Victim to Therapist

Stroke survivor Sean Bretz (center) with Lisa Lazaraton (far left), a physical therapist at Mayo Clinic in Florida, his mother and aunt (right).
Stroke survivor Sean Bretz with Lisa Lazaraton (left), a physical therapist at Mayo Clinic in Florida, his mother (center) and aunt.

It’s been almost three years since Sean Bretz collapsed. Unbeknownst to the then 23-year-old U.S. Coast Guardsman, a giant aneurysm had burst in his brain, causing a massive stroke.

“His prognosis was grim,” neurosurgeon Rabih Tawk, M.D., recalls. “We used every technology available to help him.”

Despite complications and issues, which required him to be induced into a medical coma, Bretz made an almost full recovery.

“I realize I was lucky and recovered pretty well. A lot of other people who have this type of stroke do not,” says Bretz, who attributes his success to the large team at Mayo Clinic’s Comprehensive Stroke Center.

“All the different doctors, nurses and technicians who would see me on a daily basis, they were all fantastic. But they looked at me as a whole person and not just another stroke patient.”

His experiences at Mayo Clinic are part of what has motivated Bretz to become a physical therapy assistant. “I remember some days it was very hard and frustrating. I'd struggle to find the motivation to work harder in therapy," he says. "I feel like I can offer some motivation to others, having been there.”

Bretz will graduate from school and begin his new career in April 2015. In the meantime, he’s advocating and educating. He often visits patients at a local rehab facility and was one of the survivors featured in a nationally syndicated public service announcement supporting the American Stroke Association.

May is Stroke Awareness Month. Stroke affects more than 795,000 people annually. It is the leading cause of disability in America and the fourth leading cause of death. Mayo Clinic in Florida is certified as an Advanced Primary Stroke Center by The Joint Commission, which recognizes excellence in diagnosis, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of stroke patients. 



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