After a massive stroke left him helpless, this local man found the will to return to active life — with the help of Certified Home Health Services.
By Melissa F. Pheterson
After a massive stroke in 2010, Donald Cleverley spent five years in and out of hospitals, rehab, and the care of the Certified Home Health Services team at MidHudson Regional Hospital, a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network. Two years ago, as his home healthcare was drawing to a close, a third stroke sent him back to the hospital.
When Donald was able to return to his Poughkeepsie home last spring, the Certified Home Health Services team was there to once again assist with his care.
His wife, Luella, had placed him in a hospital bed in the great room so that he’d be close by. He was too weak to do more than lie in bed, breathing heavily and drifting in and out of sleep. It was heart-rending for her to see her husband — once an avid skier and hiker — so helpless.
“Luella was tearful, at her wit’s end,” says MaryEllen Monteiro, Manager of Rehabilitation Services. “At the time, our biggest goal was to get Donald sitting up in bed.”
With effort, Donald achieved that feat, searching for and waving to Luella. While observing him, Joanne Nardo, PT, the physical therapist on the team, said, “I know he can do more.” And so the team moved quickly to collaborate, setting new goals for his progress.
Occupational therapist Kelly Hannon, OT, said: “Maybe we can get him sitting at the edge of the bed.” And he did. “Then we said, ‘Oh, Donald, you can do this; maybe you can feed yourself.’” And he did. “We kept going: ‘Maybe you can put your shirt on,’” which Donald also did, remaining quiet yet steadfast throughout.
Under the direction of a physican, the Certified Home Health Services team unites nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech pathologists, registered dietitians, medical social workers and home health aides to help transition patients to home care — focusing on patient safety and improving function by collaboration between therapists, nurses and family members. When team members met to assess Donald’s progress every two weeks, they were able to set new goals for him based on the strides they had made together.
“Each time the team went back, Donald did a little bit more, and they continued to reassess,” says Monteiro, reading aloud a note from Hannon: “The patient is doing so well, beyond our expectations.”
“The team was constantly setting new goals, and I encouraged them to keep going,” Monteiro says. “It was the communication among us and with Luella that allowed Donald to meet and then surpass our expectations — and for us to bounce ideas off each other and share our excitement.”
Hannon arranged for Donald to receive a tilt-in-space wheelchair, which would increase his mobility, allowing him to sit on the deck and watch Luella tend to the garden. Soon, he was able to transfer from the bed to the wheelchair, and through hard work and determination, eventually take steps and walk to his car.
“Donald has a quiet resolve and fortitude that we never knew he had,” says Luella, through tears. “Watching him take that first step was truly amazing.”
Nardo agrees. “He went from bedridden to walking, over the span of a few months,” she says. “I saw him trying to move. I’d ask, ‘Do you want to sit up?’ He’d say, ‘Of course.’ ‘Are you ready for therapy?’ ‘I’m always ready,’ he’d reply. The last few months, he wanted to engage in conversation and become part of the decisions. He was so motivated to get better.”
Says Luella: “He faces the challenges. He remains optimistic. We feel so much gratitude toward everyone helping him.”
From behind her, Donald says, softly, “We’re lucky.” And Luella agrees.