DaShawn Stitt, 29, grew up in Hampton, Virginia, and has loved basketball since the day he could hold one. Growing up, he played in various youth basketball leagues, and in high school, he was a nominee for the McDonalds All-American games. After graduating from high school, DaShawn worked in a call center before becoming a delivery truck driver. One September day, DaShawn was working when he was run off the road and collided head-on with a tree. He suffered a fractured neck and a broken leg in the accident.
After a brief period in the hospital to heal, DaShawn went home. Then, on November 30, he was rushed to Riverside Hospital after his mother found him unconscious in his bedroom. Doctors found that he suffered a stroke that caused brain damage, kidney failure and aspiration. They also discovered fluid around his lungs and blood clots in his veins and lungs.
DaShawn would spend the next 65 days unconscious. In February, he was able to speak for the first time. As a result of the stroke, DeShawn struggled to walk and suffered hearing loss as well as vision and memory issues. He had also lost nearly 60 pounds. While unconscious, his mother said prayers and set goals for him to be able to talk, walk, dance, sing, feed himself and enjoy basketball again.
A few days after coming out of his coma, DaShawn was discharged to Riverside Rehabilitation Hospital for extended healing and recovery. Upon arrival, he required two people and the use of a Hoyer lift to get in and out of bed. Additionally, DaShawn was unable to sit unsupported, stand upright or perform any personal care without total assistance.
The physician-led rehabilitation team at Riverside, which included physical, occupational and speech therapists, worked with DaShawn with every aspect of his therapy. The team tapped into his personal interest in music and basketball to not only encourage and motivate him to participate in therapy, but to improve his visual scanning, sequencing, following instructions, mobility and balance. “The rehab team at Riverside was phenomenal and played a major role in rebuilding my confidence,” DaShawn said. “Without the team’s help, I wouldn’t have been able to walk independently. They also helped by doing exercises with me that stimulated my memory.”
During his stay, he worked with therapists on increasing his strength and endurance by practicing transferring from his bed to a wheelchair to, eventually, standing. Physical therapists helped DaShawn use a walker and the LiteGait, a bodyweight support system to help him walk. He then progressed to a rolling walker and practiced going up and down stairs with assistance. DaShawn also enjoyed utilizing animal-assisted therapy and leisure activities that complimented his physical, occupational and speech therapy regime.
The turning point for DaShawn was when he was able to move his legs and walk again. He said, “I always had the mindset that there is nothing that I cannot accomplish. This experience proved that I am stronger than I ever thought and there is really nothing that I cannot do when I put my mind to it.”
His family played an immense role in his recovery, showing up every day throughout his rehabilitation recovery. His mother and godmother both underwent family training so that would be well prepared to continue caring for DaShawn at home. “I could not have gotten through this without my family,” DaShawn expressed. “My family prayed and had others pray for me throughout my time in the hospital and in rehab. They have been relentless in encouraging me.”
While hospitalized, a childhood friend also created the hashtag – #DStrong – and used it to provide updates about DaShawn’s recovery. The hashtag was used more than 30,000 times on Facebook alone. His friends and family also created apparel with the #DStrong, selling over 75 pieces across all 50 states.
After a month in Riverside Rehabilitation, DaShawn’s hard work paid off. By the time he discharged, he required only supervision for bathing and was deemed independent for eating, personal care, transfers, walking and using stairs. He plans to continue physical, occupational and speech therapy at home with the help of home health therapy services.
DaShawn most looked forward to being with his family at home. His advice for others on a similar recovery journey is: “Don’t be too hard on yourself, but don’t ever give up and always keep fighting.”