Faith & Hope for Robert Pritchard

GO KNIGHTS Robert Pritchard is aiming to return to UCF next fall to complete his graduate studies.
Robert Pritchard is aiming to return to UCF next fall to complete his graduate studies.

Sept. 19, 2012

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By Brian Ormiston

Robert's Recovery Photo Gallery

ORLANDO, Fla. ( - On July 9, former UCF defensive end Robert Pritchard's life changed forever. The Georgia native began suffering from uncontrollable seizures and it would later be confirmed that he had a rare and massive stroke. His road to recovery has been long, and it still has a long way to go.

Pritchard, who competed for the Knights from 2008-11, is aiming to return to UCF next fall to complete his graduate studies.

Robert Pritchard Story
Courtesy of the Pritchard family

July 9, 2012: Robert Pritchard, an otherwise healthy 22-year old, began suffering from uncontrollable seizures and was rushed by ambulance to Atlanta's Emory University Hospital Midtown. Upon arrival, it was not clear what was causing the seizures, but his symptoms then evolved to include paralysis. He was given anti-seizure medications, but the seizures continued. The physicians were concerned because the paralysis seemed to be long lasting, so they decided to start a battery of CT's/MRI's. Unfortunately, Roberts's condition was far worse than anyone of us could imagine. He was barely able to complete the first round of testing due to the increased seizure activity. The attending neurologist requested that he be sent immediately to the Neurological ICU for further monitoring.

July 10, 2012: The test results from the scans showed impressive swelling and a "spot" in the right hemisphere of his brain. Brain lesion, stroke, cancer, tumor were all thrown on the table. The physician began leaning toward stroke, but wanted proper evidence to call it so. If it was a stroke the only way to confirm was to wait until the next day to see if the "spot" would grow. Meanwhile, medications were started for infection, dehydration and anti-coagulation (blood thinners); pain medication was withheld due to its sedative properties. They wanted him to stay awake, despite the increasing pain, to monitor his consciousness. With the swelling, his consciousness would be the only bedside clue if his illness was progressing. By midday it was obvious that the pain was causing blood pressure to increase, so the physician made a decision to intubate, sedate and mechanically ventilate (using a breathing tube and a ventilator) Robert to protect his airway, in case he does lose consciousness.

July 11, 2012: The speculation was confirmed, he did have a stroke. He not only had a blood clot, he also had a bleed, compounded by swelling. Besides, the medications that Robert was receiving were not at "therapeutic levels," because he was too healthy for the dosages. This illness should not happen to a healthy 22-year old. To add fuel to the fire, because he was so young with a big, young brain, the physician was extremely worried that there was not enough room for much swelling if it couldn't control. They would take him out of sedation every four hours to ensure he could still follow commands.

July 12, 2012: Robert was still in very critical condition and his physicians made it clear that although the stroke is the primary reason why he was there the secondary reason, the swelling was a far more pressing issue. This particular night the RN that Robert had, she was his only patient due to the severity of his situation, was extremely vigilant and eager to make sure his condition did not worsen. She began to lift him out of sedation every two hours. By her doing this she was able to catch his change in mental status, even though he was sedated. She checked him at 12:00 and he was able to follow commands, raising his thumb, wigging his toes, but by 2:00 a.m. nothing. This brilliant young nurse did something that we later found out saved his life. She was able to contact the radiology department to stop all testing, have the on-call radiologist waiting for Robert have a "STAT" brain scan. The physicians were able to see the swelling had increased just enough to impede the functions of the well side of his brain. There was no more room for swelling. The physicians made a bold move to have half of his skull removed to make room for his brain, which was in jeopardy of dying off because unfortunately with the increase in swelling there is a decrease in blood flow. Also, having surgery was an even bigger deal due to the levels of blood thinners he was on. They would have to stop the therapy in order for them to cut him in any way shape or form. This means increasing the likelihood of another blood clot forming. But the risk from the swelling out-weighed the risk for the future blood clots or them not being able to stop him from bleeding on the operating table.

Robert had the surgery, it was successful, but now we had to wait. There was a debate between his attending neurologist and the neurosurgeons as to the time frame for restarting the anti-clotting medications again. The attending wanted to start as soon as possible, but the surgeons wanted to wait up to six hours. They decided the only way to get passed the issue to monitor his brain activity even more closely. He needed to be transferred to the sister location, a larger facility with more physicians. To be exact, he would now have access to all 16 neurologists at Emory, who were all familiar with his case. He was, for a week of his stay, the most critical neurology patient they had. We agreed for him to be transferred just hours after his major surgery and Robert handled it like a champ. Once he arrived at this location, they decided that the blood clot issue out-weighed the possible bleed out and they began his blood thinning treatments again. They also decided to insert an instrument called "The Bolt" which would give them constant access to his fluctuating cranial pressures.

July 31, 2012: After weeks of intense monitoring and recovery, Robert was cleared for rehabilitation. And just his luck, one of the best rehab facilities, The Shepherd Center, was right under his nose. He was the perfect candidate. The form of aggressive rehab is just was Robert needed. And we firmly believe that he was definitely up to the challenge with his extensive years of athletic training.

September 13, 2012: Although he had made great strides in his recovery, Robert is still wheelchair-bound and was scheduled for weeks more of outpatient services from Shepherd. Renovations had to be made to his mother's home including: the addition of ramps, widening of doors, adding of a sit-down shower and rails, etc. The first sets of medical bills have started to roll in from Emory. They alone totaled nearly $300,000.00. This does not include any prescriptions or other unforeseen expenses associated with his medical care.



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