​​UPMC Rehabilitation Institute - Patient Stories​​​​​​​​​​​​

​UPMC Rehabilitation Institute Patient Success Stories


A Pennsylvania native, Rose, 87, spent most of her adult life in Delaware since she and her husband were in the Coast Guard and both loved to fish. When her husband, and then son (her only child), passed away two years apart, Rose decided to move back to the Pittsburgh area to be near her siblings.

In November 2016, Rose was happily preparing for the Christmas holiday by baking cookies, sewing a festive tablecloth, and decorating her house. As she was putting up her decorations one evening, she decided to go downstairs to take a break. Suddenly she felt very dizzy and fell in the living room. Thankfully, she was able to crawl to a nearby phone and call her friend who rushed over and quickly called an ambulance.

Rose was taken directly to UPMC St. Margaret for care and it was confirmed that she suffered a stroke. She had fallen on her right side so her right arm was very sore, and the stroke affected all motor functions on her right side as well. After a few days, Rose was admitted to the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute at UPMC St. Margaret so that she could begin physical, occupational, and speech therapy.

“My therapist, Scott, was fantastic,” says Rose. “He really pushed me to see what I can do and to challenge myself. He got me walking with the parallel bars and doing leg lifts. He’s a fisherman as well, so we enjoyed chatting about that.”

Rose participated in occupational therapy where she practiced writing her name, put small beads in a dish, and placed wooden pegs in holes to work on her dexterity and arm mobility. The stroke also affected her speech, so her therapist had her do various facial expressions and sounds to help improve her verbal skills.

“All of my therapists and doctors were very nice, but they also got right down to business,” says Rose. “They told me what to do and I did it because I wanted to get better so I could go home and finish baking my Christmas cookies.”

Mike, 72, is a tall, athletic-looking man but he admits that he never took good care of himself. When he retired from his career as a social worker, he spent his first several years of retirement caring for his elderly parents instead.

“I ate and drank whatever I wanted,” remembers Mike. “I smoked and couldn’t care less. I retired at 60 and became a couch potato. I should’ve taken better care of myself.”

After his parents passed away, Mike’s poor lifestyle eventually caught up with him. At 2 a.m. one October morning, he awoke to use the bathroom but his right leg felt strange. Thinking it had just fallen asleep, he went back to bed. While trying to make breakfast later that day, his left leg and left arm were wobbly and out of control. He called his sister and brother-in-law who took him to UPMC Presbyterian, where it was confirmed that he had suffered a stroke.

Two days later, Mike was transferred to the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute at UPMC St. Margaret for rehab.

“I’m a firm believer in doing whatever it takes to get better,” says Mike. “I told the doctors and therapists to do whatever you have to so I can get better. Push me as hard as you want. I want to be home by Christmas and my goal is to walk out the door.”

Mike eagerly began his physical and occupational therapy, where he worked on strengthening his leg first so he could start walking again. At first, Mike was worried he was going to fall over because his brain wasn’t functioning properly yet and he felt tipsy. His therapists had him use parallel bars to practice walking. He also did curls with free weights to regain his arm strength.

“Just like a baby, you have to learn to crawl before you walk, walk before you can run,” proclaims Mike. “My therapists were terrific and acted as a team to get me moving again, little by litte. They never contradicted one another and each one had something to contribute to the process, so that I could get out of here sooner than later.”

Approximately six weeks after being admitted to the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute, Mike was discharged and able to walk out of the hospital using only a walker for support.

“It took tenacity and grit to recover and meet my goal of getting home for Christmas,” says Mike proudly. “My advice to anyone else rehabbing here after a stroke? Do whatever your doctor and therapists tell you. They’ll steer you in the right direction and get you back on your feet.”

Ean O., a member of the U.S. Navy, was driving through Pennsylvania on his way to Indiana to visit family when he lost control of his vehicle and crashed.

After being transferred via helicopter to UPMC Mercy from a small community hospital, Ean was diagnosed with a broken neck and neurological damage that required surgery. The day after his surgery, Ean began rehab at the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute.

“My physical therapist got me off to a really good start so that I was really confident coming out of physical therapy and coming back home, said Ean. “I’m fairly well recovered, and I did significantly better than the neurosurgeons and the doctors thought I would. It was really, I think, the best of a bad experience.”​

When heart problems and a massive stroke put him in a coma, David went to the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute at UPMC McKeesport.

William W. woke up one morning feeling extreme pain in his legs, le​aving him unable to walk.

Thomas A. didn’t expect that he wouldn’t be able to walk after a snowboarding accident left him with a severe spinal cord injury.

After suffering back and leg pain for much of her life, Susan S. found herself unable to move because of a decompression and fusion in one of her vertebra and had to undergo back surgery.

After surgery, she began intensive inpatient therapy at the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute, where she began to see improvements. “We're all individuals, with individual problems and individual needs, and they meet those needs.” Susan continued her therapy for six weeks at the Rehabilitation Institute’s outpatient partner, UPMC Centers for Rehab Services, and now continues her specialized exercise program at home. With the goal of returning to work in the near future, Susan says she feels blessed and remains keenly aware of the professional care she received.

After a stroke left the left side of her body paralyzed, Florence S. came to the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute for stroke rehabilitation.

Now continuing to recover back at home with her family, Florence says she actually misses rehab and spending the time with her physicians. Her time spent at the Rehabilitation Institute helped her learn how to walk again, which is a key component of her successful recovery. “Everyone was just so kind, and I really loved working with them every day. They were always really good to me. And the morale there is really good, too.”

In June of 2007, Paul M. suffered a stroke, landing him in the hospital for 54 days, where he went from the intensive care unit directly to the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute.

Despite his concern about the sometimes slow recovery process after a stroke, Paul continues to see improvements, and attributes them to his positive lifestyle. “From the doctors to the maintenance people, I couldn't have been treated any better, and I was in very bad shape. I couldn't even stand up, and they worked me very hard and were very positive and encouraged me. I have, for the most part, recovered very well now, and I owe it all to UPMC.” Today, Paul works as a volunteer on the coaching staff for the Seton Hill basketball team and continues to attend games and be involved with the team.

Confidence is what continues to bring Chelsi F. back to the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute.

Whether by e-mail or an in-person appointment, Chelsi remains in contact with her doctor, who specializes in Spina Bifida, because he “really has confidence in what he's talking about, and it makes me feel much more confident in the whole thing.” With the help, knowledge, and expertise of her doctor, Chelsi competes nationally and internationally in powerlifting competitions. She has traveled to destinations such as Malaysia for the Paralympic World Games, and is planning a trip to Guadalajara to take part in the Parapan American Games.

Rather than starting the day with his normal routine, Paul C. experienced trouble getting out of bed one morning and was unable to move the entire left side of his body.

After determining the magnitude of his stroke, Paul was eventually flown from a local hospital to UPMC Presbyterian, where he underwent rigorous surgeries to eliminate his blood clot, before moving to the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute. Now, Paul is back to the active lifestyle he’s always enjoyed, returning to work less than one month after his stroke. He’s also resumed coaching his children in many sports and playing golf.


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