Stroke Recovery Story: Mario Berenguer

Success stories
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mario Berenguer with encompass health liaison
Mario Berenguer with Encompass Health Liaison Jackie Bailey, who was Berenguer’s nurse when he was at Encompass Health Panama City.

Mario Berenguer is a proud husband and father, an accomplished engineer and an outgoing person who’s never met a stranger. He described himself as living a healthy lifestyle, so when he experienced an excruciating headache in late December 2022, he immediately called his wife.

“It was the worst headache of my life,” Mario said. “I managed to call my wife Mari, and she told me that I wasn’t making sense.”

His speech worsened on that phone call and became completely unintelligible.

Sudden confusion, impeded speech and difficulty understanding are common signs of a stroke—a life threatening emergency that can lead to long-term effects. Thankfully, Mari understood the urgency. She called 911. Mario was rushed to the hospital, where he was admitted to the ICU and doctors confirmed he had a stroke.

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‘I am the 10%’

According to Mari, doctors were deeply concerned about Mario because of the severity of the stroke and the massive bleed in the brain.

“Ninety percent of the people that experience the kind of stroke that I did don’t make it, and here I am. I am the 10 percent” he said.

As his condition stabilized, Mario, who is bilingual, was only able to speak Spanish and couldn’t express himself effectively. In many instances he couldn’t recall his own name.

It wasn’t just his speech that was diminished; Mario was unable to get in and out of bed on his own or attend to his basic needs without assistance. His physicians knew he needed inpatient rehabilitation, and they recommended Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Panama City. “In addition to my doctors, my family and friends also advocated for me to go to Encompass Health to recover from my stroke,” he added.

To this day, Mario said that he is so grateful that his loved ones made sure he got where he needed to be, so he could get the care and intensive therapy he needed. His physicians and his loved ones knew that he would greatly benefit from participating in Encompass Health of Panama City’s high-quality stroke rehabilitation program, where his path to recovery began.

Entering Rehabilitation

When Mario arrived at Encompass Health, he had a hard road ahead. But his care plan, which included physical, occupational and speech therapy, was designed to help him regain his independence and get Mario back to what mattered most to him—returning home to his family and active lifestyle.

“Everyone, from the nurses, the cleaning staff, the doctors, the therapists—everyone supported me through my journey and pushed me to do my best,” he said.

Customized Care

During his 12-day stay, Mario quickly began to trust his care team. He recalled one of his therapists using music and dance to expedite recovery. “She put on salsa music and asked me to dance with her,” he said. “I was touched by that moment. My therapist truly cared about me. She cared enough to not only do something therapeutic, but also something that would mean something to me.”

Mario’s therapists and rehabilitation nurses incorporated outdoor walks into his care plan, a routine that helped Mario stay refreshed. Staff collaborated to prepare Mario’s favorite Puerto Rican dishes to make his stay feel more like home. These personal touches made a huge impact in his recovery and mirrored his positive mindset.

‘Positivity is Everything!’

While Mario credits his care team’s expertise and enthusiasm with a successful recovery, his positive attitude also went a long way. “Positivity is everything! I am still here because I stayed positive, and I embraced everything—from the daily therapy to even something as simple as eating the food I was served at Encompass Health,” he said. “It was made for me, to help me get better.”

Mario was discharged after 12 days and returned to his wife and his active lifestyle. “I have a new appreciation for life,” he said. “I could have been gone, but I am still here. I am the 10%, and Encompass Health helped me get back to my life. I am so grateful.”

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