A 26-year-old Royse City man believes he knows how and why he is making a steady recovery – even miraculous by some standards – from a blood clot on his brain three years ago that left him temporarily unable to walk, talk, read and write.
Regarding the “how,” Chris Sexton, without hesitation, quoted a scripture – Philippians 4:13.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” he said.
“God’s got a plan for me,” he said. “That’s for sure.”
Dana Sexton Self agrees with her son’s “why” response.
“He shouldn’t even be alive,” she said. “He does have a plan for him.”
Sexton, a 2006 Royse City High School graduate and a lifelong resident of Royse City, suffered a medical emergency in July of 2011 while vacationing in Florida with friends.
He became ill in the middle of the night and was rushed to a Pensacola hospital. Later, he was transported by air ambulance to Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Fla., where he spent two months – one month in the hospital and another in rehab.
The diagnosis was a brain AVM – arteriovenous malformation – an abnormal connection between arteries and veins. According to online information provided by the Mayo Clinic, an AVM can develop anywhere in the body, but most often in the brain. A brain AVM appears as a tangle of abnormal arteries and veins.
His mother described the medical condition as “twisted arteries in the brain.”
According to online information, victims may not know that have a brain AVM until they experience symptoms, such as headaches or a seizure. And in serious cases, such as Sexton’s, the blood vessels rupture, causing bleeding in the brain.
Sexton, who was serving in the U.S. Army, had two medical episodes several months earlier while he was on border patrol duty in South Texas. They were possible warning signs, his mother said, but a brain AVM was not diagnosed.
While hospitalized in Florida, Sexton said, he had three surgeries. The second one, he said, lasted more than 11 hours.
When he returned home from Florida, Sexton was prescribed an outpatient regimen that included speech, occupational and physical therapy.
And that’s when Mom started a program of her own.
“He had to completely start over,” she said. “He had to learn to call me ‘Mom’ again. He had to learn his ABCs, 123s, colors. You would show him a color and he had no clue what it was.”
And he had to read daily.
“I’d make him read every night, little juvenile books” she said. “It would take him almost an hour to read one little kiddie book. And now he’s reading his Bible every day.”
Through all of his struggles, Self said, “there has not been a moment that he tried to give up.”
“I can’t,” he responded. “I don’t know why. There’s other people who will quit, but I can’t.
“Seriously, I feel like I’m a walking miracle. I could have just stayed in bed, not walking, not speaking, but I couldn’t do that.”
Even though he has made dramatic strides on the road to recovery, he’s not there yet.
“I’m doing pretty good. I’m happy,” he said, adding that he wants his speech to be clearer, he wants to walk more and even jog some.
One of his recent physical high points was a 6.64-mile walk in the hilly area around The Harbor Rockwall.
He works out Monday through Friday at Eclipse Fitness in Rockwall, but he doesn’t follow a program that was developed for him.
“He’s got himself on a program,” his mother said. “He does his own thing.”
His gives a lot of credit for his success in the gym to David Florence, his daily workout partner.
Sexton said his recovery is probably about 80 percent. But by his standards, that’s barely halfway.
“OK, I say 80 percent, but my goal is 150 percent,” he said. “I want to be 150 percent. I want to be the best of the best.”
Sexton acknowledges that his recovery doesn’t depend solely on physical fitness programs. What he draws from the Bible also is an important part of reaching his recovery goals.
Along with Philippians 4:13, he singled out Proverbs 3:5-6 as a favorite.
He quoted it by memory: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways, submit to him and he will make your paths straight.”
The scriptures, he said, are motivation for him.
“It makes me move, to understand,” he said. “I love it.”
Where does he go from here?
“I see him not giving up,” his mother said. “I see him achieving everything he wants to achieve, eventually buying his own house, getting married, having children.”
Sexton himself talks about someday becoming a personal trainer. But for now, he sees the importance of keeping his focus on getting better physically.
“Whatever the Lord wants me to do, I’ll do it. Who knows?” he said. “I’m trying to get better, then I’ll worry about that.”