Anthony Browne fell in love with cycling after learning to ride last summer. Since then, the 30-year-old says he’s “always dreaming about zooming off somewhere.”
But months later, an undiagnosed illness robbed Anthony of his mobility, leaving him uncertain if he would ever enjoy the freedom of riding again.
It began with what he referred to as “fuzzy feet,” a combination of numbness and extreme weakness that started in his lower extremities and spread to his hands.
Despite 13 MRIs, four lumbar punctures, numerous hospitalizations, and “a billion blood tests,” doctors at several hospitals were perplexed, unable to put a name to his condition.
With no answers - and no movement in his extremities - Anthony felt not only helpless but hopeless.
Anthony transferred to Gaylord Hospital in the hopes that intensive rehabilitation would restore his mobility. His mom and “biggest cheerleader,” Daun, was convinced that Gaylord would get Anthony up and walking again.
“I couldn’t imagine a future in which I would ever get my legs back,” he said. “It just didn’t seem like a possibility. But my mom was right … as always,” he smiled.
As weeks passed, Anthony progressed from walking with nearly full assistance from the hospital’s high-tech ZeroG Gait and Balance System, to a walker and later, a cane.
“The therapists push you hard to get there but they do it with love. Well … some of them, like Paula, are more like tough love,” he chuckled, referring to his physical therapist Paula Savino. “She wouldn’t let me make excuses for myself.”
Anthony especially enjoyed his sessions with therapeutic recreation specialist Katie who brought him outdoors to try adaptive cycling around the Gaylord campus.
Being able to “zoom around” in the fresh air, he said, was a welcomed distraction from his illness.
“It was the most fun I had since being on a real bike,” he said.
In the days leading up to his discharge, Anthony set himself a lofty goal: to handwrite and distribute more than 50 personalized thank-you notes to every Gaylord staff member who made an impact on his physical recovery and emotional well-being.
“I had one each for my nurses, Laura and Amy, who came by to chat whenever they had a moment to make sure I was doing okay. There was my care manager, Ann, who went to bat for me with my insurance … my doctors and PCTs … pool staff, rehab aides, cleaning staff, therapists, food and nutrition, security … everyone got a note.”
Gratitude runs deep in the Browne family. Throughout his hospitalization, Daun visited her son daily, laden with enormous boxes of homemade treats and pizza for the staff she trusted and appreciated so much.
“Everyone at Gaylord has their heart in their job,” she said.
"Sometimes, when the other therapists see Anthony doing something for the first time, they’ll stop and applaud. They’re all in it to see their patients leave in a better state than when they came in.”
The Browne family recently purchased six stars through Gaylord’s “Recognize a Star” program to honor the “dream team of staff who took such good care of Anthony.” The mother and son duo recently returned to Gaylord to visit his care staff who all marveled at his continued progress.
“There’s a lot to be thankful for here,” Anthony said. “I never thought I would get this far. But Gaylord saw the potential, and they got me to this point.”