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Peoria man shines light on physical therapy journey as a recovering stroke patient

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PHOENIX (May 30, 2024) – 51-year-old Peoria resident Oscar Martinez always thought he was invincible.  

That is, until he suffered a stroke the day after Christmas in 2022.  

“I remember, we were waiting for our daughter and grandson to come over so we could give my grandson his Christmas presents,” Martinez recalls. “That’s when I started to sweat a lot. I called out to my wife for help, and she immediately noticed I wasn’t okay. I couldn’t move or speak. That’s when she realized I was having a stroke.”  

Martinez was rushed to the hospital, and when he woke up, he was unsure of what had happened.  

“The nurse came into the room and told me that I had a stroke,” Martinez says.  

While a setback, Martinez remembers thinking he would bounce back in a few months. However, six months post-stroke, he realized it would be a much longer road to recovery. One he’s still facing today.  

“It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions and challenges,” Martinez explains. 

The symptoms of a stroke are discussed often, but Martinez and his physical therapist, Stephanie Larson with Banner Physical Therapy, want to shine a spotlight on what the rehabilitation process looks like for someone recovering from a stroke; highlighting some of the trials and tribulations that aren’t usually talked about.  

“We focus on helping the patient do things like getting in and out of bed, in and out of the car, sitting down, standing up, balance training, and then of course help our patients, like Oscar, get back to activities they enjoy doing,” Larson says.  

Larson explains one of the most surprising activities of rehabilitating a stroke patient is the fall prevention exercises that include practicing getting on and off the floor, as well as practicing falling safely to prevent further injury.  

“Another surprising factor of rehab might be how hard we have to push these patients following a stroke in order to regain as much function as possible,” Larson says.  

 Martinez says the activities and encouragement Larson mentions have helped fast-track his progress. 

“Thanks to these activities, I’m able to walk with the assistance of a cane and an ankle foot orthosis (AFO) - which is a device that helps stabilize my ankle,” Martinez says. “When I started physical therapy, I was in a wheelchair.”  

However, Larson states that physical therapy recovery for stroke patients isn’t a ‘one-size fits all.’ 

“The recovery time and process are different for every single patient,” Larson notes. “No two patients with a stroke are the same and they need to be treated with an individualized treatment plan focused on attaining their goals and regaining as much function as possible.”  

Martinez is hopeful and remains positive. 

“To anyone who might be going through a similar situation right now – keep pushing and believe in yourself,” urges Martinez. “Look for help in family and your community, be okay with your new normal, don’t take anything for granted. Take care of your health and your loved ones. Life really is too short.”  

Banner Physical Therapy is part of a joint venture partnership between Banner Health and Select Medical’s Outpatient Division, a nationally prominent, locally driven provider of outpatient physical rehabilitation. Banner Physical Therapy offers 60 convenient locations throughout Arizona. The centers provide a wide range of services to patients, including physical therapy, hand/occupational therapy, pelvic health, cancer rehabilitation, pediatric therapy, sports medicine and work injury prevention and management. For more information, visit 

Banner Health is one of the largest, secular nonprofit health care systems in the country. In addition to 33 hospitals, Banner also operates an academic medicine division, Banner – University Medicine, and Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center, a partnership with one of the world’s leading cancer programs, MD Anderson Cancer Center. Banner’s array of services includes a health insurance division, employed physician groups, outpatient surgery centers, urgent care locations, home care, and hospice services, retail pharmacies, stand-alone imaging centers, physical therapy and rehabilitation, behavioral health services, a research division and a nursing registry. To make health care easier, 100% of Banner-employed doctors are available for virtual visits and patients may also reserve spots at Banner Urgent Care locations and can book appointments online with many Banner-employed doctors. Headquartered in Arizona, Banner Health also has locations in California, Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada and Wyoming. For more information, visit

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