Paralyzed saxophone player gets his sound back
BATON ROUGE - Saxophonist Wessel "Warmdaddy" Anderson is able to play again, after recovering from a stroke that left the right side of his body paralyzed.
"The worst thing is probably, actually, getting into a hospital and understanding that you cannot move," he explained. "I didn't believe I'd be walking, I thought alright this is it."
Anderson spent more than 30 years as a professional sax player before the stroke last November. He spent 20 years playing with musical great Wynton Marsalis and is still the first string alto saxist with Marsalis' Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.
"Regardless of if somebody says you might not ever play ever again, in my mind I said, oh no, I spent 30 years trying to develop this, I'm going to do something," Anderson said.
After the stroke he spent ten weeks at the Baton Rouge Rehab Hospital with a team of therapists working with him each day. He re-learned how to function on his own, to speak and to walk. At first he couldn't sit up on his own, or produce even a single note on his saxophone.
Anderson's therapists all agreed that his passion to get back to playing was key in his speedy recovery.
"Playing the saxophone was something that was really huge for him," said said speech language pathologist Angela Wascom, "and we really worked on getting the lips tight so that he could blow into the mouth piece, and just having that, knowing that he wanted to play again really increased his drive."
Therapists used three types of electrical stimulation to help Anderson's muscles gain strength, including a therapy method used on actor Christopher Reeve to help force their legs to pedal a stationary bike and stimulation to retrain throat muscles.
"It just made the muscles contract to strengthen them in addition to exercises," explained Wascom.
Less than a year later, Anderson regained about 90 percent of the use of his right side. He says he's still numb from his head to his toes on his right side, but at least he's got his sound back.
He's performing at the Manship theatre Thursday at 7:30pm with "an Evening of Jazz with George Bell and Friends". For more information on the show call (225) 344-0334 or visit manshiptheatre.org.