New bathroom planned as once-stranded MS sufferer returns from
Thursday, October 16, 2003
Barry Ashworth is done with conventional bathtubs.
Returning to his Highlands Ranch home after six weeks in the hospital, he has already begun plans to remodel.
Ashworth, who has multiple sclerosis, fell in his tub and spent six days in September trapped there, surviving on bath water and nose rubs from his 3-year-old black Labrador, Libby.
He sat in his home Wednesday after being discharged from Swedish Hospital, waiting for contractors to come over and begin converting his tub into a roll-in shower that's wheelchair accessible.
"I won't get back in that tub again," said Ashworth, 56.
Julie Johnson, who was substituting in early September for Ashworth's regular RTD Access-A-Ride driver, said she knew Ashworth hadn't responded to calls or knocks the previous two days.
Johnson said she talked to neighbors, who hadn't seen Ashworth in days. She saw two wheelchairs through the open screen door and knew something wasn't right.
She said she decided to enter the house from the back door, unlocking the bolt through the doggie door.
Ashworth was beginning his seventh day in the tub when Johnson found him. He thought she was a hallucination.
"I asked how long he was in there, and he said he wasn't sure," Johnson said. She fed Libby and waited for the paramedics to arrive.
During his six-day ordeal, lesions developed on Ashworth's hip, shoulder and back. He suffered from a compressed sciatic nerve, which runs along the leg and buttocks, and his muscles became stiff.
He drank bath water until it ran out; he couldn't reach the faucet for more. Libby, his service dog since February, kept him conscious, nuzzling him with her nose and playing games.
"One of her goals was to hear me laugh," he said. "She'd have to work pretty hard to get that laugh, though."
When he was hospitalized, he couldn't feed or clothe himself. Now, he has fully recovered, and life is relatively back to normal.
Ashworth credited Dr. Elena Draznin and her rehabilitation unit at Swedish Hospital for helping him get home and regain his independence.
"I'm surprised he returned to his previous level of function," Draznin said. "People with MS sometimes decline after any kind of medical condition."
Draznin let Libby stay in Ashworth's hospital room during his stay.
The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America is helping Ashworth pay for his bathroom project.
"I feel like my days are mine again," Ashworth said. "Everything seems to be falling back into rhythm."
On Wednesday, per his request, Johnson drove Ashworth home from the hospital. It was the first time she'd driven him anywhere. The two said they plan to keep in contact.
"I have two boys, and we'll go help him with stuff around the house,"
Johnson said. "I don't feel that he's just someone I ran into by coincidence
and it's done. I'd like to keep him a part of my life."
Copyright © 2003, Denver Post