SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Five months after beaten San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow was admitted to San Francisco General Hospital, the hospital’s chief of neurosurgery announced Tuesday that Stow’s condition has improved, allowing him to be moved to a rehabilitation facility.
Stow was transferred to the unnamed facility Tuesday morning.
“It has really been a roller coaster with Bryan,” Dr. Geoff Manley said at a news conference at the hospital Tuesday afternoon. “He’s making dramatic progress.”
Stow arrived at San Francisco General Hospital on May 16 from a hospital in Los Angeles where he had been treated following the March 31 beating outside Dodger Stadium after the season opener between the Dodgers and the Giants. Two men have been charged in the beating.
When Stow arrived at San Francisco General Hospital he was brought in comatose on a gurney and was on five anti-seizure medications. Although for months doctors encountered setbacks in Stow’s treatment, he began to make significant improvements in the past month, and recently began speaking in sentence fragments and following simple commands.
His transformation, Manley said, was summed up by the fact that Stow, upon arriving at the rehabilitation facility, was able to send his regards to Manley by saying, “Tell him I said hello.”
Stow has begun to “mobilize,” Manley said, meaning that he is beginning to move but can’t yet walk on his own.
On Sept. 23, Stow was taken outside into the sun for the first time since his attack, a moment he called “magical,” according to his family.
Manley said all of Stow’s medications have been reduced significantly but he remains on some “maintenance” medications typically given to traumatic brain injury patients.
The Stow family has requested that the name of the rehabilitation facility not be released to allow them and Stow to settle in and begin working with the rehabilitation team.
Manley said that even though Stow is no longer under the care of his neurosurgery team, he plans to keep in touch with the Giants fan and his family.
“Recovery just doesn’t stop at six months,” he said. “For these patients, recovery is not a straight line.”
The intensive resources needed to treat patients such as Stow underscore the need, Manley said, for more care centers that specialize in acute care for traumatic brain injuries.
“They need to be at the right hospital at the right time,” he said. “There are neurological issues as well as complex medical issues that need to be monitored closely and managed aggressively by a dedicated expert team.”
San Francisco General Hospital became the first acute-care medical center in the country to become certified for treatment of traumatic brain injuries, Mayor Ed Lee’s office announced last week.
The hospital received the certification from the Joint Commission, an independent body that accredits and certifies hospitals nationwide, after an on-site survey on Sept. 21 as part of the voluntary certification process, according to the mayor’s office.
The hospital is already internationally recognized for its expertise in traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries, according to the mayor’s office. Hospital neurotrauma specialists treat more than 1,200 patients with those injuries each year.
For Stow, the right hospital was initially Los Angeles County and University of Southern California Medical Center, where doctors removed a portion of his skull to relieve pressure caused by brain swelling resulting from the attack.
Replacing the missing skull fragment with a custom prosthetic bone flap proved challenging, and doctors attempted that surgery several times before succeeding on Aug. 10. Doctors later inserted a shunt to divert fluid from his brain.
One of the lingering medical challenges is monitoring the formation of blood clots and tweaking blood-thinning medications Stow takes to prevent those clots.
Bedridden patients can develop a circulation problem known as deep vein thrombosis, which involves the formation of blood clots. The condition can be life threatening if the clots dislodge and travel to the lung or the heart, resulting in a pulmonary or cardiac embolism.
“While they haven’t gotten smaller, they also have not gotten bigger,” Stow’s family said on a website it established to provide updates on the 42-year-old Santa Cruz man’s recovery.
Manley said there was no way to assess Stow’s chances of making a full recovery because of a lack of long-term information on patients undergoing rehabilitation following traumatic brain injuries.
“We need to learn more,” he said.
Considering Stow’s recovery and what it means in the context of the future of traumatic brain injury care, Manley said, “It gives us hope that some people can actually go on to do well.”
Stow’s chances of making a full recovery were improved not only by his access to effective acute care, but also, Manley said, by his physical health before the attack and by his strong support network.
His family has constantly been by his side and several special visitors have dropped by the hospital to visit Stow, including Giants Manager Bruce Bochy.
According to Stow’s family, Bochy stopped in on Saturday, presented Stow with a signed hat, and spent 45 minutes talking with him and told Stow that he wanted to see him at spring training.
“As he was leaving, Bryan said to him, ‘Bye. I love you,’” his family said, to which Bochy replied, “I love you too.”
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