Tom and Jean, together for 50 years and married for 47, have been through thick and thin.
People know Tom — a 73-year-old Vietnam veteran — for his adventurous, confident attitude and charming blue eyes.
It's this confidence — coupled with Jean's calm demeanor and steadfast dedication to her husband — that guided them through the years. It also led them through their journey with the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute at UPMC Montefiore.
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. They agreed that an experimental surgery, part of a clinical trial within UPMC’s Department of Neurosurgery, was their best decision.
Brian Jankowitz, MD performed the surgery by inserting catheters to drain fluid and deliver drugs.
After spending 20 days post-surgery in the ICU at UPMC Presbyterian, doctors deemed Tom well enough to start inpatient rehabilitation.
Tom and Jean arrived at the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute at UPMC Montefiore.
They met with 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 most affected by the stroke.
Tom had therapy for three hours a day. He worked hard to regain movement on 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 moved to a nursing home for transitional rehab before going 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 to continue working with the wonderful team there. They're like our family!
“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.”
Clearly, the staff's love of Tom and Jean is mutual. They were thrilled to sing “Happy Birthday” to him 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:
“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 checked off many things on his bucket list, including:
When asked what he would like to do 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, she looks forward to Sunday dinners with their four adult children and three grandchildren.
Marathons might be a long way off. But, with Ed and his team on their side, getting Tom back home was one goal they 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.”
To find out more about our services, contact the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute.
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