A week after finishing his studies for a Doctor of Divinity degree, Timothy Boson suffered a brain aneurysm that left him incapacitated and speaking with a severe slur. The 60-year-old Burton pastor, who stayed fit riding his bicycle every day with his wife, couldn't sit up for more than a few minutes before slumping to his side.
"He was like an infant," recalled Ethel Boson, Timothy's wife of 35 years. "I had to bathe him, dress him and feed him."
Boson spent 30 days in the hospital and another 50 days in a rehabilitation center recovering from the stroke. Once he was able to return to his home in Beaufort, he began an intense program of speech, physical and occupational therapy three days a week at Beaufort Memorial Outpatient Rehabilitation at Beaufort Medical Plaza.
"When he first came to the center last July, he could only tolerate two or three minutes stretched out on his back before rolling over on his side into a fetal position," said Rich Craner, the occupational therapist who treated him. "He had very limited use of his left arm and required the assistance of two people to stand up."
Craner, an occupational therapist for 13 years, began working on increasing Boson's range of motion and incorporating it into everyday activities such as sliding his arm into a shirt or reaching up to grasp a cup of water.
"The job of an occupational therapist is to help people retain or regain the ability to perform functional activities like dressing, grooming, making a meal, cleaning house," Craner said. "They're things people take for granted until they can't do them."
Earlier this April -- celebrated nationally as Occupational Therapy Month -- Boson completed his final treatment at Beaufort Memorial Outpatient Rehabilitation. He is now capable of taking a shower on his own, dressing himself and fixing a simple breakfast.
Of all his physical accomplishments, none has brought him more joy than being able to ride bikes with his wife again. Although he still has trouble walking, he is pedaling around the neighborhood thanks to a specially equipped three-wheeled cycle provided to him by the Little Red Dog Foundation.
"It's the instrument that has put me back on the road," Boson said. "I missed riding with my wife every evening after dinner."
Craner arranged for the donation -- a therapeutic cycle with a large tractor-style seat and adaptive handlebars -- from the nonprofit, Beaufort-based group after Boson told him how much he missed those daily rides. It took Boson two weeks working with Craner at the Beaufort Memorial rehab center to learn how to ride the cycle.
"When Tim first saw the bike, he started to cry," Craner recalled. "He was so excited to have that part of his life back again."
Since it was founded in 2005, the Little Red Dog Foundation has given away more than 200 therapeutic cycles to adults and children with mobility issues. Last year, the group presented 13 bikes to Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans suffering from traumatic brain injuries.
"The exercise they get riding the cycles helps them recover from their injuries," said John Sova, secretary of the foundation. "And it gives them the freedom to get out and do things."
For Boson, riding the cycle is a step toward regaining the ability to drive again.
"It's my source of independence," said Boson, who has served eight years as co-pastor of Healing Revival Church with his wife. "I feel like I am almost the person I used to be."
Boson still needs a walker to get around, but Craner said he made huge strides during his eight and a half months of therapy. With the support of his wife and four children, he continues to progress every day.
"It's been a long road for everybody," Craner said. "Tim has had to work hard to try to improve, but he has done remarkably well."