Scott Bettencourt was determined to walk and his mother Judy Forbes never doubted that he would. After all, this was not the first time he would overcome physical challenges and learn to use his legs again.
Bettencourt, 44, was born deaf and with cerebral palsy. Forbes was told that her son would probably never walk without the aid of leg braces. Not accepting that prognosis, she worked with her young son every day helping him to exercise his muscles. By the age of 12, the braces were removed and Bettencourt was walking and leading a fairly normal life, Forbes said, even participating in sports.
"He always excelled despite what he was told; nothing held him back, he was not afraid of anything," Forbes said. "He was normal, like everyone else, rode motorcycles, football, baseball, he did everything."
Bettencourt, who now lives in Lancaster, grew up in Canyon Country. He graduated from the California School for the Deaf in Riverside and attended one year of college. He was married (now divorced) and has three children, ages 13, 17 and 20. Bettencourt, who communicates through sign language and is able to read lips, worked as a data entry processor.
About eight years ago, his physical condition started to deteriorate. He was experiencing severe pain and was losing the function of his legs. By 2005, he was in a wheelchair, in constant pain, and unable to work. His hips and legs twisted and became unusable. It was not until 2010 that he was diagnosed by an orthopedic surgeon. In November, he underwent double-hip replacement surgery at the USC Medical Center. On November 18, upon the family's request, he was transported to Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital's Acute Rehabilitation Unit (ARU) for his rehabilitation.
Whether he would walk again, was uncertain, but Bettencourt was determined to make it happen. And Judy Forbes, as always, was right there by his side.
While in the ARU, Bettencourt communicated with staff through Henry Mayo's social worker, Ajila Harris, MSW, who had received a bachelor's degree in deaf studies, and by writing on a dry erase board.
Although the initial treatment plan included recommendations for three weeks of intense daily physical therapy, with support from his main therapy team, which included Terri Quaintance, Cindy Emerson, Sara Aquin and Lori Senft, Bettencourt was walking and pain-free within two weeks.
"His mind was saying 'I want to walk'," Forbes said. "He was walking within the first few days, first on the bars, then the walker, then the cane, and then finally without assistance. We had not seen him walk in five years. He never gave up, he knew he would walk."
As the only licensed ARU in the Santa Clarita Valley, the Henry Mayo department offers physical, occupational and speech therapies in an inpatient setting to patients who are recovering from an illness or injury regain their independence. Rehabilitation services are based on a team approach with individualized treatment plans to achieve optimum results.
Gayle Hoover, nurse liaison for the ARU, also credited Forbes for her unending support.
"It's a pretty amazing story," Hoover said. "She was the head cheerleader and never missed a day. Sometimes she would stand in the hallway with tears running down her face and thank everyone that walked by."
Bettencourt was able to spend Christmas with his family at his mother's house in Agua Dulce. "It was the best Christmas present we could have ever received, to see him walk in," she said.
On a recent visit to Henry Mayo, Scott Bettencourt and his mother reunited with his physical therapy team at the ARU amid smiles and hugs. Forbes translated as Scott spoke. He smiled as he recognized the familiar faces of those who helped him walk. They remembered him as the jokester, the one with a smile on his face.
When asked who his favorite therapist was, he quickly signed "I love them all."
"It was the most wonderful experience I ever had, I wouldn't want him anywhere else," Forbes said. "Every person here was remarkable. They are angels from heaven and I will never forget them until the day I die."
Bettencourt currently lives with his caregiver and continues his physical therapy. He would like to resume working part-time and wants to volunteer at the local YMCA to help elderly people with pool therapy.