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.
In June of 2011, David had a tooth infection that spread to his heart causing him to need a valve repair. Once he arrived at the emergency department at UPMC McKeesport, he was placed on a ventilator and stabilized. That same day, David was flown by helicopter to UPMC Shadyside. A CT scan done there revealed that side effects from the infection had caused a massive stroke. David spent approximately one month in a coma in intensive care and was transferred to a long-term acute-care facility — where he came out of the coma in mid-August — until he was stable enough to be transferred for the next level of rehabilitation.
In October, David was transferred to a skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility, but was not walking or responding very quickly to therapies. When the therapists recommended that David was ready for more intensive rehabilitation, they suggested a few inpatient facilities in the city of Pittsburgh. David and his mother, Ruth, decided they wanted him to be admitted into the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute at UPMC McKeesport due to the convenience of the location and their familiarity with the hospital and staff.
“My mother lives close to UPMC McKeesport, and she was able to visit me every day. She also used to work there. It really is a first-rate place — my nurses were outstanding and all of the therapists were great,” David says. “I still go visit them from time to time.”
“When he was in the hospital after the stroke, doctors didn’t think he would live, and if he did, they said he wouldn’t walk or talk,” Ruth adds. “The nurses and physical therapists at the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute were the ones that got him to stand up and walk.”
David went home in May of 2012, and continued outpatient physical, occupational, and speech therapy at UPMC McKeesport for a few months, with the same therapists he saw during his inpatient rehabilitation. He still cannot use his left arm or hand, but he can move them, and he’s seen a lot of improvement over the last few years, which he and Ruth attribute to the care David received at UPMC. He is now able to walk with a quad cane and is still doing at-home rehab with a personal therapist.
“For him to even be able to dress himself and walk around is a major accomplishment,” Ruth says. “If it hadn’t been for the right people at the right time at UPMC, he probably would not be where he is today.”
“We’d recommend the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute at UPMC McKeesport to anyone,” David adds.
*David’s mother, Ruth, is a retired UPMC employee.
William W. woke up one morning feeling extreme pain in his legs, leaving him unable to walk.
After physicians discovered massive internal bleeding, William was transported by air to UPMC Presbyterian, where he underwent life-saving surgery to amputate his legs. After spending time at the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute, William is now able to walk with the support of prosthetics. “I was extremely impressed. I believe that is the reason where I am today at this point in my recovery. I was provided with the doctors that I needed.”
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.
Spending nearly five weeks at the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute, Thomas worked on the basics of getting around in a wheelchair and gaining more strength in his arms with the hope that he’ll be able to drive his new car to work in the future. “Everybody that I worked with there was always willing to offer any additional help beyond what was required.” In the meantime, Thomas also has worked towards continuing his passion of kayaking, which requires upper-body strength and endurance.
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.
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.
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.