In April 2021, Alexandra Chavez sustained a brain injury and was in a coma for a month in a Corpus Christi-area hospital as a result of an automobile accident. Once she was medically stable, in May 2021, Alexandra’s parents had her transferred to TIRR Memorial Hermann in Houston for rehabilitation.
“Prior to the accident, I was a bodybuilder and I also worked as a hair stylist and a bartender in Portland, Texas, which is close to Corpus Christi,” said Alexandra. “When I arrived at TIRR Memorial Hermann, I was barely awake."
Dr. Ryan Stork, assistant professor of rehabilitation medicine in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston and an affiliated attending physician with the brain injury program at TIRR Memorial Hermann, described her condition. “The Coma Recovery Scale-Revised is a standardized measure to assess level of consciousness. On Alexandra’s first evaluation she was found to be in a vegetative state. Alexandra wasn’t following commands and her arousal level was low. She took a bit longer than most patients to ‘wake up.’ We saw more purposeful behavior from her after about three weeks. Once we saw that, her family and care team were excited about her recovery potential.”
“Initially we worked on Alex’s speech by incorporating music,” said her speech language pathologist, Jillian Davis, MS, CCC-SLP. “She loved the singer Usher, so we used his song ‘Yeah’ to help her respond to questions. We also knew Alex had an interest in cosmetology, so we used her own make-up tools to encourage her to speak about the items. In addition, we created strategies, such as using a memory book, to help prepare her to attend cosmetology school.”
During her physical therapy, therapists utilized a body weight support harness system.
“We worked on her balance, including using the body weight support harness system to facilitate standing and ambulation,” said her physical therapist, Rachel Barrett, PT, DPT. “As she progressed with her therapies, the focus turned to getting her more independent with mobility so that when she discharged from our facility, she would be able to participate in the community and work toward achieving goals that she had set for herself.”
As an inpatient at TIRR Memorial Hermann, Alexandra began looking forward to getting back to her life in her hometown and re-imagining what her future looked like back in Portland.
“Alexandra walked out of TIRR Memorial Hermann in June 2021,” said Dr. Stork. “She could transfer and get out of bed with some supervision. She made great progress during the six weeks she was an inpatient with us.”
“When I got home, I had outpatient physical, occupational and speech therapy for about six months, and today I walk without assistance and I have no problems with speech,” said Alexandra. “I was inspired by my therapists at TIRR Memorial Hermann and decided I want to become a physical therapy assistant.”
Alexandra enrolled in courses at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi. She is currently finishing her prerequisite courses and planning to apply to the school’s physical therapy assistant program in 2024.
“I would love to work at an inpatient rehabilitation facility one day,” said Alexandra. “The experience I had at TIRR Memorial Hermann motivated me to choose a new career!”
For the 34th consecutive year, TIRR Memorial Hermann is recognized as the best rehabilitation hospital in Texas and No. 4 in the nation according to U.S. News and World Report's "Best Rehabilitation Hospitals" in America.Learn More