In the middle of last year’s World Series of Poker, Kevin "Phwap" Boudreau collapsed in the parking lot of a nearby Subway restaurant during the dinner break of an event. The young poker pro was rushed to the hospital and the community was shocked to learn that he had suffered a traumatic brain injury, one that came with a grim prognosis.
Boudreau, who was part of the famed Ship It Holla Ballas crew, had sudden bleeding in his brain and was placed in an induced coma. As his family rushed from Colorado to be by his side, many of his close friends in Vegas did what they could.
One of my best friends and fellow poker player @KevinPhwap is in the hospital recovering from emerg. brain surgery, everyone send good vibesFollow @PeterJetten
Things weren’t looking good, but as he’s proven dozens of times on the table, Boudreau is a fighter. He spent more than a month in an intensive care unit before finally being moved back home to Colorado. Since then, Boudreau has been surrounded by family and friends as he embarked on a long road to recovery.
PokerNews recently spoke with Kevin’s father, Jim Boudreau, who was kind enough to fill us in on the latest.
PokerNews: Jim, first let us thank you for taking the time to update us on Kevin. For those who may not know, could you tell us what happened to Kevin last summer?
Jim Boudreau: On June 14, Kevin suffered a traumatic brain injury during a WSOP event dinner break. It was similar to a brain haemorrhage, but in many respects much worse. It was accompanied by a stroke so at that time his prognosis was very poor. We would have to wait weeks or possibly months to see if any recovery at all would happen. Kevin spent about five weeks in ICU before he became stable enough to transfer home by Medivac to a long-term acute care hospital in Colorado Springs.
It was obviously a very trying time for your family. Was it a difficult process getting Kevin back home from Las Vegas?
His condition was very challenging at that time so legal difficulties with facilities and insurance were big hurdles to overcome. He had very rare infections that created care and transfer issues.
Once home, what were the first few months like?
Once back in Colorado, Kevin was still breathing on a ventilator and we were thrilled just to have his eyes open. He had no control over any body part other than being able to blink. After a week or so, the first hospital was able remove the ventilator and start the very first movement in his left leg. His therapy was limited to minutes a day and over the course of the next five weeks, movement came back in his left hand.
We never realized all the other muscles in his core, back, neck and so on had no strength. The goal was to get him into a rehabilitation hospital and it was him being able to move one finger or two that made it happen. Once at the rehab hospital, his therapy intensified and was increased to four-five hours each day.
After more than three months with another brain surgery and some minor health setbacks, Kevin's left side of his body was fairly functional. Still, his right side had no feeling or movement. He was still being fed through his feeding tube and his means of communication was “yes” and “no” by using thumb up or thumb down.
Kevin returned home with us on December 11 and continues his therapy at home and an outpatient setting. He still has about 10 therapy appointments each week with a lot more work at home.
Can you give us a little update on how Kevin is doing now?
At this point, Kevin's right side has begun to wake up and start moving. His right hip and leg can now move forward to walk, but he can't bear his entire body weight. He eats anything and his feeding tube only provides water for hydration. He has begun to vocalize and can say only a few words, but it's coming around.
The first question everyone seems to ask is, "Does Kevin know what's really going on?" and the answer is yes, absolutely! He can read, he remembers well, and believe it or not, he can play online poker. He still makes better decisions than me, and that's playing left handed.
He has become a major fan of SportsCenter and chooses to watch live sporting events over other television when he's not engaged in therapy. He is generally very happy. He smiles and laughs a lot. He ate very well and from his normal weight of 150 lbs. to his low of 116 lbs, he's now up to 174 lbs. We have faith and believe his recovery will continue and when doctors once said he could never be normal again, we believe he will walk on his own and talk at some point.
You mentioned to us that he may make it out to the WSOP for a few days. That would have seemed incredibly unlikely less than a year ago, but here he is hoping to make it out.
Kevin is really looking forward to returning to the WSOP to see so many friends and just hang out. He'll travel most likely mid to late June with his long-time girlfriend, Sam, who has been there by his side since the beginning. Who knows what his capabilities to walk and talk by then will be.
How did your family feel about the reaction/support from the poker community?
The poker community in its entirety — from friends, acquaintances, poker players, family members of poker players, and media — has been truly amazing. Kevin's closest friends have continued to be there for him. He's had friends from across the county and Canada that have come here to visit and share in his recovery.
The fundraiser that was done on Kevin's behalf was beyond belief. Although insurance has been, for the most part, very good, many aspects of his care, therapy and recovery were outside insurance benefits and funds raised have truly been a blessing. There are so many people that have been instrumental in everything that has gone on. Continued prayers in many ways have been answered.
What's next for Kevin as far as the recovery process is concerned?
We know from the start that because of the severity of his injury it would be a long road to recovery. Many health professionals have told us that recovery plateaus around a year after an incident. Although that could be true, we believe Kevin still has a long way to go and I'm excited to think about where he will be during the 2105 WSOP.
I can still remember Kevin's first neurologist made a comment that essentially said that Kevin's chance for a positive outcome from this at best would be about 10%. What that said to me was Kevin played those odds every time he entered a tournament to make it into the money. I knew he would beat the odds in the biggest tournament of his life and he's proving that success now, each and every day.