John was brought up to always do better and keep trying, no matter what. So when he was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy in 1986, he kept pushing forward. It wasn’t until he contracted a virus in 2015 that he was incapacitated to a point where he was not able to stand.
After four days recovering in the hospital, John was feeling better but needed to regain muscle strength so he was admitted to the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute at UPMC East.
“I was dead weight when I arrived there,” John recalled. “I had no strength and it took several guys to lift me. It took a few more days before I was able to walk a total of ten steps. Those same folks saw my progress over the next two weeks and were an important part of my recovery.”
John’s therapists, Ellyn and Beth, made arm and shoulder strengthening exercises fun by creating a baseball-like game in which two pound weights were used like a bat to hit a ball. They were very creative in their approach to care and open to John’s input. They asked him how he does things at home and would then build an exercise into their treatment plan so they could help John build up the necessary muscle groups.
During John’s three week stay at the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute, he did physical and occupational therapy to regain his strength. He was eventually able to get out of his wheelchair and walk with a cane for extended distances. John noted that it was the positive attitude of all the staff members on the unit, from housekeeping to nursing to therapy, that rubbed off on him and helped him feel better sooner.
“It’s not the big things that matter, it’s the small things,” said John. “At one point, I was dying to have my hair washed so even though it was the end of her shift, my nurse Diana took the time to wash my hair. The staff would put necessary items within arm’s reach so I could better help myself. They were very accommodating and always so happy to do something for me. That made all the difference.”