Dennis Ulibarri got a chance to get back up on his own two feet after suffering from Guillian-Barre Syndrome thanks to the Tucumcari City Pool personnel.
“Without the pool I wouldn't be where I am. I can walk about 150 feet with a walker. It takes me about a half hour with breaks,” said Ulibarri who is from Rio Rancho.
“He’s up on a walker now. But he’s up on his own two feet,” said Ulibarri’s mom, Elizabeth Smith.
Ulibarri, 41,who worked at Lowes in the Albuquerque area, said he began to get sick last December and January.
Ulibarri became paralyzed from Guillian-Barre Syndrome, Smith said. “He was not able to walk, stand or feed himself. He was in the hospital in Albuquerque for 2 1/2 months before he was discharged into my care.”
Ulibarri said he wanted to come home to Tucumcari and heal in the house his late grandfather, Al Benavidez, built.
However, bringing her son home couldn’t have been accomplished without the help of aunts, uncles and cousins, Smith said.
Additionally, “We were concerned about bringing Dennis to a small community where he would not have the facilities or medical support he would need to walk again,” Smith said.
But, through several different avenues paved by friends and Derek Owen of the the First Assembly of God Church, Ulibarri was able to get into the pool. The equipment, a Hoyer Lifter, was at the pool and Ulibarri was the first person to use the equipment, Smith said.
For more than a month before the pool closed for the summer, Ulibarri used the lift and exercised in the pool.
“I was able to begin exercises to strengthen the muscles in my legs,” Ulibarri said.
“He was able to walk and swim for the first time,” Smith said. “A lot of different people pitched in form First Christian Church, Dr. (James) Saltz and his staff, Tucumcari home health, his caretaker Dean Billings and therapist Glenna Allenberg.”
Guillian-Barre, which is caused by a reaction to a virus, can affect the central nervous system as well as major organs of the body.
In Ulibarri’s case, his spinal cord was affected and caused him to be paralyzed.
“He’s expected to have a 98 percent recovery,” Smith said.
Since the city pool closed, he now uses the pool at a local motel.
“It’s really going good with therapy,” Ulibarri said. “But it could take three months, four months. I’m hoping by January.”
In the beginning, the family gives a lot credit to Kim Garcia, pool manager, Smith said. “She came before pool hours, on her own time, to be Dennis’ lifeguard and let him in to do his exercises.”
All these people, Smith said, “made Nathan (her husband) and I believe in small communities. Tucumcari may not have the big facilities but they have folks with big hearts who are not afraid to get involved and to help those that need help.”