A teacher of advanced mathematics, he also was a noted jazz musician whose albums ranked high on Billboard charts.
But one September night after returning home from a meeting, the accomplished Long Beach resident began having trouble speaking. "My friends, who were there, told me I was babbling, but I thought I was speaking perfect English," he says. In fact, the musician had suffered a massive stroke.
Alvin and his wife went to Long Beach Memorial. As a Joint Commission-certified primary stroke center and a designated stroke receiving center for Los Angeles County, the hospital has the resources and expertise to provide high-level neurovascular care 24 hours a day.
Minutes after Alvin arrived in the emergency room, he underwent a brain scan to determine the nature and extent of his condition. Once his diagnosis was confirmed, he was treated with a drug to dissolve the life-threatening clot that had formed in his brain. "We use a rapid-fire system to diagnose and treat stroke patients within 60 minutes of their arrival in the emergency department," explains Angie West, R.N., program director of the neuroscience/stroke program.
Alvin survived, but the stroke left him paralyzed on his right side and unable to speak. Encouraged by his Long Beach Memorial care team, the talented saxophonist never lost hope. While still in intensive care, he welcomed the help of a physical therapist and speech-language pathologist who began working with him to restore lost function. Shortly afterward, the inpatient rehabilitation team started Alvin on a more intensive program of physical, occupational and speech therapy.
When he left the hospital several days later, Alvin continued his rehabilitation in Long Beach Memorial's Transitional Rehabilitation Services (TRS) program. The only day treatment program of its kind in the Los Angeles area, TRS helps patients with a wide range of neurological injuries return successfully to their jobs, family and community. The program is located in a fully furnished house where patients receive comprehensive care in a real-world setting. The TRS experience also includes therapy in a variety of other environments, including the patient's community, home and workplace, and welcomes family support.
Nima Ramezam, M.D., medical director of Long Beach Memorial's neuroscience/stroke program, says stroke patients work with a dedicated team of therapists, doctors and certified neuroscience nurses from the time they enter the emergency room until they finish transitional rehabilitation and beyond. "Our goal is not just to save lives, but to fully restore them," he says.
After six months in the TRS program, Alvin relearned how to walk and talk. "To go from being a teacher to being unable to talk was devastating," he says. "You don't know who you are as a person anymore. But my therapists understood exactly how I felt. They were fantastic."
Today, Alvin helps children with developmental disabilities and says it's the most rewarding work he's ever done. He's back to playing music and spends time encouraging other stroke survivors. "So many wonderful people helped me along the way. Now I try to tell my story to as many people as I can. "