One of Wimberley’s best-known and respected citizens turned 82 on Sept. 13, and his “family” at Deer Creek of Wimberley staged a surprise party to honor the occasion.
Therapists and medical staff were also celebrating the near-miraculous recovery of Leonard DeMasters who came to Deer Creek as an outpatient almost a year ago. At the time, he reported loss of weight and difficulty swallowing, symptoms possibly related to his history of cancer of the nose and throat 40 years ago.
Speech pathologists working with “Mr. D,” as he became affectionately known, found that their swallowing therapies simply were not working for this patient. Suspecting a cause for the difficulty unrelated to previous cancer, they recommended he see a neurologist for evaluation.
“They may have saved my life,” DeMasters says now with a smile. “The tests showed that I had subdural hematoma (blood on the brain) and surgery was ordered immediately.”
Following brain surgery in Austin, Mr. D returned to Deer Creek for acute rehabilitation as an inpatient. The road to recovery was a difficult one, complicated by several issues like pneumonia along the way. Completely unable to swallow after surgery, he was supplied all nutrition through a feeding tube in the stomach.
“I had occupational, physical and speech therapy, and everyone took great care of me,” he said. “I also made good friends. This is a wonderful group of people.” He is especially grateful to Linda Johnson, Director of Rehabilitation, and Kathryn Hayes, both Speech Pathologists, whom he describes as “very special to me.” Slowly but surely, DeMasters gained strength and weight as his swallowing began to improve.
Returning regularly now for outpatient therapy with Hayes, DeMasters continues to make strides. “One of our goals was to have him eat birthday cake on the big day,” said Hayes. “He not only enjoyed the cake, but also munched on some crackers right before the party.” These are hard-won victories and no one is more appreciative than Mr. D.
Surrounded by affectionate Deer Creek staff members, he exchanged hugs and warm words with those who had been part of his recovery as inpatient and outpatient. But there’s not a lot of time for parties on this octogenarian’s schedule. He currently puts in four or five hours a day at DeMasters-Daniel Insurance Agency, the Wimberley firm he co-founded 24 years ago.