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‚ÄčUPMC Rehabilitation Institute Patient Stories

Read About Their Success

Meet Justin

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.

Read Justin's Story

Meet Janet

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.

Read Janet's Story

Meet Ross

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.

Read Ross' Story

Meet Steve

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.”

Read Steve's Story

Meet Kitty

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.

Read Kitty's Story

Meet Lance

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.

Read Lance's Story


Meet Sonja

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.

Read Sonja's Story

Meet Sean

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.

Read Sean's Story


Meet Gene

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.

Read Gene's Story


Meet Gretchen

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.

Read Gretchen's Story

Meet Patricia

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.

Read Patricia's Story

Hear from Our Patients

Meet Megan

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.

Watch Megan's Story


Meet Ben

While repairing a roof for his church, long-time football player Ben suffered a devastating fall that left him paralyzed from the waist down.

Watch Ben's Story


Meet Lee

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.

Watch Lee's Story


Meet Bill

Within a three-week period, Bill suffered not one, but three strokes. Damage to the right side of his brain caused him to struggle with walking and controlling his hands. 

Watch Bill's Story


Meet Brittany

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.

Watch Brittany's Story


Read More Rehab Institute Patient Stories

Meet Tom

Tom | UPMC Rehab Institute Patient Story

The Challenge

People know Tom — a 73-year-old Vietnam veteran — for his adventurous, confident attitude and charming blue eyes. In 2015, Tom suffered a hemorrhagic stroke and rushed to the hospital. Facing only a 30 percent chance of survival, Tom’s neurology team, his wife, and their children discussed their options.

The Path to UPMC

Meet John

John | UPMC Rehab Institute Patient Story

The Challenge

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.

The Path to UPMC

Meet Rose

The Challenge

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.

Meet Mike

Mike, 72, is a tall, athletic-looking man but he admits that he never took good care of himself. His poor lifestyle eventually caught up with him, and he suffered a stroke.

Read Mike's Story

Meet Ean

Ean | UPMC Rehab Institute Patient Story

The Challenge

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.

The Path to UPMC

Meet David

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

Read David's Story

Meet William

William Werkeiser | UPMC Rehab Institute Patient Story

The Challenge

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

Meet Thomas

Thomas Antolic | Rehab Patient Story | UPMC

The Challenge

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.

The Path to UPMC

Meet Susan

Susan Scheuller | UPMC Rehab Institute Patient Story

The Challenge

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.

The Path to UPMC

Meet Florence

Florence Scheider | UPMC Rehab Institute Patient Story

The Challenge

Florence S. had suffered from a stroke that left the left side of her body paralyzed.

The Path to UPMC

In need of stroke rehabilitation, she went to the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute for treatment.

Meet Paul M.

Paul Maljan | UPMC Rehab Institute Patient Story

The Challenge

In June of 2007, Paul M. suffered a stroke, landing him in the hospital for 54 days.

The Path to UPMC

Paul went from the intensive care unit directly to the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute.

Meet Chelsi

Chelsi Figley | UPMC Rehab Institute Patient Story

The Challenge

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.”

Meet Paul

Paul Covelli | Rehab Institute Patient Story

The Challenge

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.