Tom and Jean, together for 50 years and married for 47, have been together through thick and thin. Tom, a 73-year-old Vietnam veteran, is known for his adventurous, confident attitude and his charming blue eyes. It is this adventurous streak, coupled with Jean's calm demeanor and steadfast dedication to her husband, that guided them through their journey with the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute at UPMC Montefiore
In 2015, Tom suffered a hemorrhagic stroke and was rushed to the hospital. Facing only a 30 percent chance of survival, Tom’s neurological team, his wife, and their children all discussed their options and agreed that an experimental surgery, part of a clinical trial within UPMC’s Department of Neurosurgery, was their best decision. Brian Jankowitz, MD, successfully performed the surgical procedure by inserting catheters to drain fluid and administer medication.
After spending 20 days post-surgery in the ICU at UPMC Presbyterian, Tom was deemed well enough to begin inpatient rehabilitation. Tom and Jean arrived at the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute at UPMC Montefiore
, where they met clinician Ed Hetherington and his team, all of whom would quickly become their second family.
Ed and his team worked with Tom to help regain strength on the left side of his body, the side most affected by the stroke. He attended therapy for three hours a day, working diligently to regain movement in his entire left side, especially his hand and foot.
Jean describes the moment when Tom was finally able to move his big toe, saying, "We all were so thrilled. All of the nurses and clinicians came running in. We were cheering and crying. Everyone was so excited."
When Tom made enough progress, he was discharged to a nursing home for transitional rehabilitation before returning to his home with Jean. Sadly, eight months later, Tom suffered a seizure. When the ambulance driver asked Jean if she had a hospital preference, she immediately said UPMC Montefiore
“Looking back, that seizure was almost a blessing in disguise. It gave us the opportunity to go back to the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute at UPMC Montefiore
and continue working with the wonderful team there. They're like our family!” she says. “Ed does such a fine job with his staff. It is one thing to do your job, it's another thing to really care about the people you work with."
It is evident that the staff's love of Tom and Jean is mutual. The staff makes sure that each patient on their floor feels like a part of their family so they were excited to sing "Happy Birthday" to Tom on his special day. As Tom says, "They make me feel like a king!"
On a more serious note, Tom explains his deep gratitude for the staff at the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute at UPMC Montefiore
: "The staff members here are tremendous. They come into this field and build their team and are total team players. I feel so safe and loved here."
Tom has already completed many things on his bucket list, including earning a pilot license, becoming a certified scuba diver, and jumping out of an airplane. When asked what he would like to accomplish next on his list, his blue eyes twinkle as he replies, “I’d like to run a marathon!” Jean’s goals are a bit simpler: to get her beloved Tom back to their evenings spent on their front porch and Sunday dinners with their four adult children and three grandchildren.
While marathons might be a long way off, with Ed and his team on their side, getting Tom back home was one goal they successfully checked off their list. “We left with heavy hearts, because we truly love the people at UPMC Montefiore, but we knew it was time to go home,” Jean explained. “Every day was a step forward, and we are so thankful to have had two wonderful experiences at the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute.”
Jean looks across the table at her sweetheart of 50 years and says, “I don’t know what we would have done if we didn’t have UPMC. They truly saved his life.”