Nau gao thanh com. (Cooked rice takes time.)
It’s a phrase Rodney Nguyen’s mom would say to him growing up. These words have also helped him through life’s obstacles, including a stroke in January 2017 at 39 years old.
“It was my sister’s birthday. I had called her that morning to wish her a happy birthday,” recalls Nguyen. “Later that evening, I went to the dance studio. I remember the walls being cleaned with Pine-Sol. I felt sick and had a headache. I told my friends to take me to the hospital. I remember being paralyzed on my right side and collapsing in the back of the car on the way to the emergency room.”
Rodney had suffered a hemorrhagic stroke, a serious condition that occurs when a blood vessel in the head ruptures, causing bleeding around the brain. He was in a coma for three weeks. He received care at UC San Diego’s Jacobs Medical Center and Sharp Coronado Hospital before being transferred to Sharp Grossmont Hospital for inpatient physical rehabilitation therapy. When he arrived at Sharp Grossmont, he could barely move.
“When Rodney came here, he was basically bed-bound. He could not speak much nor move the right side of his body,” says Dr. Mansour Mofidi, medical director for Sharp Grossmont Hospital Rehabilitation Services. “Our goal was for him to be wheelchair-bound. But he went above and beyond that expectation.”
Support and spunk
Nearly seven months since the stroke, Rodney is now able to stand, speak and swallow. He has regained some movement of his right hand and is also able to walk with assistance.
“Because of his hard work and the magnificent job of our therapists, he was able to surpass his goal and walk, which also surpassed our goals,” says Dr. Mofidi.
One of Rodney’s other goals is to dance the bachata again, a Latin dance similar to salsa. In 2012, while looking for a creative outlet from his job creating websites, he decided to check out a dance studio in his neighborhood.
“I just came in off the street, with my mohawk, torn jeans, and I did not know what bachata was,” says Rodney. “Next thing I knew, I joined the dance team. It was awkward at first. I thought of quitting multiple times. But I stuck to it, and I got better.”
It’s this lesson in patience that Rodney credits to not only his dancing, but also his recovery. The dance community, along with family and friends, have stuck by him every step of the way. They fundraise to help pay for medical bills by holding dance socials, as well as selling T-shirts. Supporters around the globe — from Hawaii, Hong Kong, Poland and Spain — post photos on social media wearing the bright red shirts that highlight Rodney’s famous hairdo and the phrase “You Khanh Do It,” a play on words incorporating his Vietnamese birth name.
“I’m extremely proud that Rodney is being Rodney, regardless of the situation,” says longtime friend Markus Daehn. “He’s always like that. He’s always funny, upbeat and driven. And I’m glad to see that hasn’t changed.”
In July 2017, Sharp Grossmont Hospital staff, friends and family gathered in the hospital’s rehabilitation center to wish Rodney well on his last day of therapy. For Rodney, who has spent more than half the year in the hospital, it is a long time coming. His plan is to get back to normal, and enjoy the little things that make him happy, such as ice cream and a burger.
“I always thought I was healthy. But it can happen to anyone,” says Rodney. “God chose me to have this stroke, and in a way it was like a gift. It humbled me and taught me patience. It taught me to enjoy life and not speed through it. My body will catch up to my brain. I just need to be patient, have willpower and work hard.”
For more information on rehabilitation services, contact Sharp Grossmont Hospital Rehabilitation at 619-740-6204. Sharp Grossmont Hospital Rehabilitation is nationally accredited by CARF (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities) and has been serving San Diego’s East County for 40 years.