Tom “Bucky” Olguin returned home Saturday after four months of hospitalization from complications of West Nile virus. His illness was difficult to diagnose and in his case even more difficult to recover from, but he had some help from his horse.

Bucky and Jackie Olguin are Casa Grande Valley residents and have two sons, 14-year-old Waylon and 9-year-old Luke.

Jackie was born and raised in Casa Grande. Bucky spent his early childhood in Albuquerque, N.M., where he was born. Around age 9 his family moved to Stanfield, and he spent time between the home in Arizona and the family ranch in New Mexico.

In December Bucky was diagnosed with West Nile virus, known to be contracted from mosquito bites and present in Arizona for a few years.

Before contracting WNV he was a local truck driver and spent his free time roping and with his family.

Olguin took his first trip to the hospital Nov. 6 with severe flu-like symptoms he had been experiencing for a little over a week.

Having been a kidney transplant recipient, he was expected to be more prone to the flu and common cold, and was sent home to recover with bed rest. The illness did not ease, however.

On Nov. 8 he was again admitted to Casa Grande Regional Medical Center after breaking out in sweats, cold chills and experiencing nausea, among other harsh symptoms.

The doctors couldn’t diagnose Olguin and were pressed to find answers. His illness progressed as his doctors ran tests. As it did so he lost his speech and all energy; he became unable to walk or even stand.

The hospital continued to run tests and still could not find a solution to the situation. Olguin became delusional and started talking to himself and hallucinating. He suffered extensive breathing problems, states of severe confusion and began panting with each breath he took.

He began to have difficulty sleeping. One day he was unable to sleep for 24 1/2 hours. To ease his unrest the hospital administered sleeping medication, and he soon went into a coma.

He was transferred to Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix. After the transfer Olguin’s family was forced to leave their home and were welcomed by Bucky’s parents, Rudy and Mary Olguin. They offered to take care of the couple’s two sons while Jackie stayed with Bucky.

Jackie was forced to leave her job at the Arizona City Golf Course so she could continue hospital visits and travel to and from Phoenix daily.

After the transfer, Olguin was kept in a medicated coma for nearly five days while the hospital ran a CAT scan and other tests. Once taken off the medication he did not wake.

Eight days later the doctors had conclusive results and were positive that Olguin had West Nile. Only a short time after the diagnosis he woke from his coma for the first time.

Jackie said it was like he knew what was wrong so he could wake up to face it.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined that 15,000 people in the U.S. have been infected with West Nile virus since the first detection in 1999. Of those, 500 have died.

These odds held no relevance in the Olguins’ eyes. Bucky was no quitter and his determination to recover proved advantageous.

From Dec. 29 until Jan. 25 he remained in intensive care at Good Samaritan. He was then moved to a specialized branch of the hospital where he began rehabilitating his bodily functions. This unit incorporates animals into physical and speech therapy in a process called animal assisted therapy. This technique is unique to Banner Good Samaritan.

Olguin, having been raised on a ranch, spent much time working with animals. It only made sense to incorporate his lifestyle into his recovery.

He was first greeted by trained therapy dogs, which he would pet and feed to build strength and flexibility in his arms and hands.

During physical therapy Jackie suggested, “What if we brought his roping horse up?”

The hospital agreed to allow the horse to be incorporated into the daily physical therapy and Coco journeyed to Banner Good Samaritan.

Olguin completed different activities with his horse including brushing, petting and feeding her carrots to build his upper arm and trunk strength and speaking to her to work on his speech therapy. While Bucky was completing these activities he was asked to sit on the edge of a chair and reach for the horse, which helped build his muscles and endurance in his arms. By placing both feet on the ground he was building trunk strength and using his leg muscles.

“Bringing his horse in was a moral boost for Bucky,” said his therapist, Jill Sclease.

After reintroducing the horse into his life his spirits were lifted, he gained strength more rapidly and was more enthusiastic about recovery. He began slowly gaining strength and was more able to control his body.

“I think it jolted something in his brain that said, ‘Hey I have a life at home. This hospital is not my life,'” said Jackie. “It seemed to bring back a sense of control for him.”

The Olguin family owns two other horses, Bandit and Wedo; a pig, Snickers; and a few dogs and cats.

Jackie and Sclease both emphasized the importance of the emotional attachment between ropers and their horses and how animals share compassion and emotion opposed to the harsh mechanical workings of exercise equipment.

Sclease is confident he will continue to improve. She said, “He’s a tough worker and he won’t give up easily.” Bucky’s family extended great thanks to Sclease for her help in his recovery process.

Jackie also thanked Bucky’s parents, Rudy and Mary, sister Taunya Rodriguez, and friends Pascual Careleana and Juan Villar.

Rudy is an auctioneer and Mary is the personnel director for Horizon Human Services. They also operate a small horse-drawn buggy business on the side.

Careleana and Villar organized and directed the Cowboy Bike Run in Bucky’s honor. The proceeds of that was donated to the family to help cover expenses. The amount totaled nearly $5,000. They are also planning a roping benefit in April to help minimize the family’s costs for equipment that will be needed at home.

Now that Bucky has been released and is home, the couple will return to Good Samaritan three times a week for continued physical therapy. However, he will have to have special equipment at home that insurance will not cover.

Anyone wishing to make donations to help Bucky and his family may do so by visiting or by going to any Wells Fargo Bank and making a donation under the name Tom Bucky Olguin.