The UPMC Rehabilitation Institute provides specialized inpatient and transitional rehabilitation care for patients throughout Pennsylvania and Western Maryland. Meet some of our patients and learn about their experiences:
Driving back from school, Brittany was just a minute from home when her car hit a patch of ice and spun into a pole. The accident left her in a coma for six days and caused traumatic brain injury.
As a college freshman majoring in computer science, Ross, 18, ascribed his pounding headache and excessive nausea to a common stomach virus. Two days later, the pain in Ross' head had become unbearable. A CT scan revealed a brain bleed called a cavernous malformation, which is a microscopic cluster of abnormal, dilated blood vessels.
From horseback riding to whitewater rafting, Megan was always up for an adventure. But an unfortunate ATV accident left her with a broken back and neck, and unable to move her legs.
Erie native Sean, 44, was setting up a tree stand on his land when he fell nearly 12 feet, breaking his neck. After being taken to the closest trauma center — UPMC Hamot — Sean had six-hour surgery. Surgeons implanted a cage inside his neck to stabilize his spine.
While repairing a roof for his church, long-time football player Ben suffered a devastating fall that left him paralyzed from the waist down.
One Saturday in June 2014, Steve went to a home improvement store in Steubenville, Ohio. As he walked into the store, he heard car keys hit the ground. He looked down and realized they were his. He bent over to pick them up but couldn’t feel them in his left hand. He kept walking but his left side was giving out. Steve thought to himself, “This isn’t a good place to be. I think I’m having a stroke.”
Gene, has started and sold several businesses during his career in manufacturing. A self-described workaholic, Gene was working in his home office in Transfer, PA, when he suddenly lost feeling in his right side. He immediately suspected he was having a stroke.
Ohio native Gretchen — a 44-year-old mother of one — prides herself on being fit, eating well, staying active, and being healthy. That's why she was surprised to notice pain at the base of her skull in February 2016. Gretchen's doctor wasn't able to find a cause so she sent Gretchen home with pain medicine and the discomfort went away. Then, in May, Gretchen got laryngitis and had a very bad cough. Four months later — after making dinner and cleaning up — she tried to tell her husband, Kenny that she wasn’t feeling well but he couldn’t understand anything she was saying. Gretchen was slurring her speech and her vision was blurry. Kenny took her to the hospital right away, where doctors determined that Gretchen had suffered a stroke.
Patricia, 76, of North Huntingdon, started her day out normally, although she did feel a bit more tired and weak than usual. That night, she decided to turn in around 9:30 p.m., unusually early for the self-proclaimed night owl. Around 2 a.m., Patricia woke up to use the bathroom. She felt a bit wobbly walking down the hallway. It wasn’t until she went to grab the toilet paper that she realized something was wrong.
Phyllis, 77, was getting ready to head to work at the local grocery store when a sudden stroke left her paralyzed on her right side. After that, she couldn’t walk, use her right hand, or speak clearly.
Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) worker Justin Dawson was only 24 when his life changed in a horrifying crash. Only on the job that day for just one hour, he was helping a stranded motorist on Interstate 77 when a car drove onto the shoulder and pinned him against a VDOT truck. Experts at the UPMC Rehabilitation institute would soon help him to live his life again as an amputee.
After his motorcycle crossed the center line and hit an oncoming car head on, Lance lost his left arm at the scene. He also had a crushed left leg, among other injuries. He woke up a week later — with no memory of the accident — to find surgeons had to amputate his leg.
After many years suffering from diabetes, Lee had to have his right leg amputated. When his daughter started planning her wedding, Lee wanted to be able to walk her down the aisle.
Janet, 69, from Seneca, Pa., has always maintained an active lifestyle but didn’t play aggressive sports. That's why she was surprised to have so much pain in her knees. She saw an orthopaedic surgeon who told her that the bones in both of her knees were rubbing together. She would need a knee replacement.
Kevin Luster, 62, was doing construction at a friend’s house in April 2020 when he fell and broke his back — for the second time in 20 years.
After a long battle with COVID-19, including a three-week hospital stay and five days on a ventilator, Cindy turned to UPMC Western Maryland’s Comprehensive Inpatient Rehab Unit (CIRU) to help prepare her to return home. Having never been apart from her husband for more than four days in over 47 years, she was determined to get back to him, as well as to her children, church family, and friends. Just wanting to be home with them continually pushed her to get better.
Kitty, 82, had been going through chemotherapy for about two years after a lung cancer diagnosis. After returning from a trip to Florida, she suddenly felt weakness. When Kitty's weakness didn't go away in the morning, her daughter called an ambulance. She went to UPMC McKeesport where doctors diagnosed her with Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), a rare autoimmune disease.
Matt, a 47-year-old single father of three, thought the worst was behind him after a week-long hospital stay near his home for COVID-19. But 10 days after his release, the Sarver, Pa., resident continued to have COVID-related problems, including weakness and tingling in his hands and feet. After falling and tearing a muscle in his hip, he was admitted into the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute's inpatient rehab unit at UPMC St. Margaret.
In 1996, Sonja — a Pittsburgh native — moved to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to serve as a missionary. Her goal was to start a school for underprivileged kids. In December 2015, Sonja was flying home to visit her parents for Christmas. She became very ill and her family had to take her to the hospital where doctors diagnosed her with pneumonia. On New Year’s Day, her oxygen levels took a turn for the worse. Sonja found herself on a life-flight to UPMC Presbyterian where doctors diagnosed her with H1N1 — the swine flu.
79-year-old Pittsburgh native Judy was away in Florida when she developed crippling headaches in the back of her head and neck, leading to surgeries to remove a mass on her brain stem. When swelling from breathing tubes led to a tracheostomy that left her temporarily unable to speak or swallow, experts at the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute guided Judy through speech, physical, and occupational therapy that would test both her mental and physical strength.