Success Stories

Jim McHugh

The rare combination of Parkinson’s disease and myasthenia gravis left Jim McHugh severely deconditioned and in need of rehabilitation.

Retired life was treating Jim McHugh quite well. The 79-year-old spent his working years in healthcare management and as a physical therapist. Jim lives in Loveland, CO with his wife and son. He has four children and ten grandchildren that he loves spending time with. His hobbies include reading books and riding bikes, especially his recumbent bike. Retirement has afforded Jim the time to enjoy the people and things he loves so much.

Unfortunately, Jim has also spent that time battling not one, but two neurological conditions. Jim lives with both Parkinson’s disease and myasthenia gravis, an incredibly rare combination. Over time, Jim developed severe, generalized deconditioning. The overwhelming weakness led him to a local acute care hospital. The hospital referred Jim for rehabilitation to help restore his strength and independence.

Jim chose Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital. A former patient, Jim was pleased with the care he received, and his outcomes. It was also a convenient choice. Jim lives just eight minutes from the hospital, making it easy for his wife to visit each day. Family support, led by Jim’s wife, had a big impact on his recovery. As did Jim’s background in rehabilitation. He understood the system well and was motivated to work hard.

“I was very impressed with the cohesiveness of the team,” Jim said when asked about his stay. “Everyone had excellent communication! The admissions office coordinated everything well for getting me into the facility. The way everyone worked together and the expertise of the therapists were the reasons we always chose to come back to NCRH. Everyone that works here loves their job. It really shows!”

One of the things Jim loved most about NCRH was the sendoff each patient receives from the staff.

“At the end of a patient’s stay, they do a standing ovation where all the staff applauds each patient as they leave the facility. This recognizes every patient individually and their success! This is such a delightful moment and I look forward to mine again Sunday!”

Sunday came and Jim discharged home with his wife. But Jim’s not done with NCRH. He chose to continue his recovery with the hospital’s outpatient program. Jim participated in the outpatient program before, with great satisfaction. “The therapists are great with getting involved with my care as an individual and really pushing me to meet my goals!”

Jim’s goals find their roots in his plans for the future. “I have a lot more to do in life and I know that success is solely about motivation and I have that! I owe it to my wife for all the motivation and love she has given to me!”

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Rick Deluca

Rick Deluca with his therapy team at Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital: Lead Therapist Ben Adams, PT, DPT, Emily Hegarty, COTA and Ruth Amagliani, PT, DPT.

Rick Deluca, 63, considers himself “super active”. He lives in Northeaster, CO with his spouse. They enjoy traveling together, and Rick also enjoys fly fishing and hunting. That is, when Rick isn’t working as a full-time heavy equipment operator.

One day, Rick was involved in a front loader accident while transporting pipes at work. Driving the front loader downhill, it buckled up and threw Rick headfirst into the windshield. He remembers being unable to get up and felt paralyzed from the neck down.

At the hospital, doctors diagnosed Rick with an incomplete traumatic spinal cord injury from severe stenosis at C3-4 and C4-5. Rick underwent an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion. With surgery a success, Rick would need inpatient rehabilitation before returning home. His neurosurgeon recommended Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital.

Rick is thrilled with the recommendation.

“The nurses and PCTs have been excellent! They are caring, friendly, respectful, and check on me all the time,” Rick said. “The way they all care for me has touched my heart.”

“The leadership team has done an amazing job running this facility,” Rick continued. “The staff they hire is wonderful! Everyone has been so helpful during my stay, and I attribute it to the phenomenal leadership.”

The combination of clinical excellence provided by compassionate caregivers with Rick’s focus and determination produced great results.

“My success is due to pushing myself and following the directions given to me by my therapists,” Rick stated. “But what influenced my recovery the most is believing in God. Life is a gift and we have to nurture it every day.”

“I truly believe it is important to not give up and fight, since I have a lot of life left to live!”

Rick began to see the light at the end of the tunnel when he reached his first milestone — walking eight feet. “I just kept my eye on the prize, which was getting home!”

Before long, Rick claimed that prize, discharging home from NCRH. Rick is most excited about getting back to his hobbies and “just enjoying life”. Right before his accident, Rick bought a 911 Porsche Carrera. He remains determined to drive his dream car — he even kept a picture in his rehab room!

“I would recommend anyone with injuries to come to NCRH,” Rick said, reflecting on his stay. “It has been nothing but a great experience!”

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Nancy Ross

After breaking her hip in a fall at home, Nancy Ross came to Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital to regain her independence.

Nancy Ross lived a very social life before her hospitalization. She was active with her church, played bridge, and hung out with her friends and neighbors. She spent as much time as possible with her two kids and four grandchildren.

Then one day, Nancy fell at home while getting dressed. She suffered a closed displaced subtrochanteric fracture of the left femur, a type of hip fracture. Nancy also suffered a left colles fracture, which is a break in the forearm. To repair the broken hip, Nancy underwent surgery.

After surgery, Nancy needed rehabilitation to regain her independent lifestyle. She chose Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital to help her achieve that goal. Some of Nancy’s friends had been patients in the past and loved the care they received.

Nancy’s recovery was fueled by her motivation to get home. Strong support from her kids, who called Nancy every day, also helped her healing.

The hospital staff also played a key role according to Nancy. “Everyone that works here is a team, and I am so thankful to have worked with all of them! The housekeepers especially get gold stars. They were always so helpful, talkative, and smiling!” [My therapists] were very competent and gave me the confidence to feel I will be okay when I discharge home.”

Nancy considers her stay a successful one.

“Success is knowing I am discharging home today and have been given all the “tricks” on how to do well at home alone,” Nancy stated. “The fact that I can transfer alone is success, especially with all my weight-bearing restrictions!”

Excited to get home, Nancy plans to take one day at a time. Her future goals are to get back to her prior life and drive again! Nancy has two quotes for life she wishes to share: “Find something good about every day!” and “If you have humor and you have faith, you make it in life!”

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Valerie Kline

Valerie Kline is using her Alinker walking bike again after recovering from COVID-19.

Valerie Kline lived an active life prior to her recent hospitalization. She worked as a full-time rehabilitation manager at an acute care hospital. Valerie, 62, enjoys cooking, reading, and bike riding on her recumbent trike. She uses an Alinker walking bike due to impaired mobility from multiple sclerosis. Valerie also loves spending time with her two sons and two granddaughters, traveling to historic places, and visiting monasteries.

One April day Valerie began to feel nauseous. A few days later, shortness of breath set in and she developed a fever. Valerie got progressively weaker to the point where she couldn’t move. She called an ambulance which transported her to the acute care hospital. Doctors diagnosed her with acute respiratory failure and administered a COVID-19 test.

The test came back positive.

After two weeks in the acute care hospital, Valerie healed enough to transition to a lower level of care. She chose Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital to help her transition home. Valerie was familiar with NCRH from visiting when the hospital opened in 2005. That visit impressed Valerie. She also knew some of the therapists working at NCRH, and her kids live in the area.

“I can’t think of one single complaint,” Valerie said of her experience at NCRH. “Everyone was very kind, caring, and attentive. [They have] great therapists that are highly experienced and kept me moving toward my goal of improved mobility to go home.”

One of the things that most impressed Valerie was the involvement of Brenda Simon, the hospital CEO. “Brenda took time to get know me and cared about my recovery,” Valerie recalled. “She was very open and I loved the strong presence she had in the hospital. She would make rounds through the rehab gym and hand out treats to the patients!”

Valerie believes there are several phases to her success, but the most important was returning to her active life. Her main goal for rehab was to transfer on-and-off her Alinker walking bike to walk again, which she achieved! Valerie’s belief in “seeing the good everywhere you go” helped fuel her recovery. Valerie has discharged home from NCRH and resumed working full-time.

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Ray Lafflam

After two years of unsuccessful treatment for back pain, Ray Lafflam underwent surgery, followed by rehab at NCRH.

For the last 22 years, Ray Lafflam has been enjoying retirement. He loves to go camping, make fruit wine, and do woodworking. Ray, 75, lives with his wife in a fifth wheel RV in Loveland, CO. For two years, he was president of his Winnebago club.

But the last two years have been difficult for Ray, as he struggled with chronic lower back pain. Conservative attempts at managing the pain failed, so Ray elected to have an L2-pelvis fusion. After surgery, Ray chose to come to Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital.

Ray chose NCRH for several reasons. Not only did the hospital come recommended, but he had a few friends that had been patients at NCRH and had a great experience. It also didn’t hurt that NCRH was close to the RV park where Ray lives.

Regardless of why Ray chose NCRH, he’s glad he did. He loves how the hospital provides three hours of therapy each day, stating “you won’t heal unless you work hard!”

Ray also praised the staff effusively.

“Dr. Whitek always listened to my health problems and did what he could to resolve them,” Ray shared. “The nurses have been great at giving me pain medications on a regular schedule. The therapists were excellent and I love how the therapy gym had such a fantastic assortment of machines and equipment.”

For Ray, success means he’s no longer hurting. After completing his home study, Ray discharged home from NCRH. He’s excited to be back in familiar surroundings with his wife and dog. And he can’t wait to go camping again, as it’s been more than two years since his last trip!

“I am so excited to get back to what retirement life should be like…and, of course, my wife’s cooking!”

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Ian Wickramasekera

Ian Wickramasekera was diagnosed with Epstein-Barr virus, associated with Guillain-Barre syndrome, causing muscle weakness & paralysis.

Life in Aurora was good for 50-year-old Ian Wickramasekera. He spent his days teaching at Naropa University in Boulder, his nights going out dancing, and filled his spare time with long-distance running.

But then, Ian stopped feeling like himself. For a few weeks, he spiked high fevers and experienced delirium, body aches, shortness of breath, and a cough. Then his legs began giving him problems. Ian developed bilateral lower limb weakness. Walking became difficult and he fell several times. To Ian, it felt like he was becoming totally paralyzed.

Ian knew he needed medical help and sought care at his local hospital. They admitted Ian and the doctors ran some tests. Ian was diagnosed with Epstein-Barr virus associated with Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS). GBS is a rare condition that causes the immune system to attack the nervous system. This often leads to muscle weakness and paralysis.

Rehabilitation plays an important role in helping someone with GBS regain their independence. Ian spoke with a clinical liaison from Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital. After their discussion, he felt NCRH was the right choice for his rehabilitation. Though Ian considered facilities closer to home, the services and outcomes NCRH offered impressed him.

Though Ian’s expectations were high, NCRH didn’t disappoint.

“The therapists influenced my recovery the most with all their encouragement,” Ian reflected. “Rebekka Keho (OT) and Shelby Lojo (PTA) had amazing treatment plans. Great communication. They collaborated well together and encouraged my independence. They are highly trained, mature, and open-hearted people. Anyone can be a therapist, but these ladies have been very motivating! Ben Adams (PT) always volunteered to help me and made me feel comfortable and safe. Mark Nagel (OT) incorporated music and dance in my therapy. He has great expertise!”

Ian looks forward to dancing with his friends again, as well as teaching. During his stay, Ian described success as leaving with the ability to regain full ambulation. In one day at NCRH, Ian had walked 267 feet!

Now discharged home, Ian is thankful he chose NCRH for his rehab. “Dr. Arrogante, the nurses, and everyone were great at listening and encouraging,” he said. “I am forever grateful for my experience here.”

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Gary Sampson

A stroke left Gary Sampson unable to do the things he loves, like volunteering.

Gary Sampson is one of those people you can’t help but admire. The self-described “professional volunteer” has made a living through a life of service. His career includes work as a police officer, part of the National Red Cross, and a Victim Witness Director at the District Attorney’s office.

In retirement, Gary worked with the Loveland Fair Board, serves as the Zone Chair of the Lions Club, is the Leading Knight for the Elks Lodge, and drives for the Senior Alternatives in Transportation program. He’s also a family man, enjoying his two children and five grandchildren whenever he can.

But, last year Gary suffered a stroke, bringing his active lifestyle to a halt. The stroke affected Gary’s left side and caused acute respiratory failure. He required a ventilator to breathe. To wean from the ventilator, he admitted to Northern Colorado Long Term Acute Hospital. After successfully weaning from the vent, he was ready for inpatient rehabilitation. That led him next door to Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital.

One of the main reasons Gary chose NCRH was their competency in the care of stroke patients. He was very pleased with his decision. “Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital is such a positive and motivating place to do rehab!” Gary stated. All the staff answered all my questions and it felt like a family atmosphere. Even Dr. Pearson, who was my LTACH physician, would come [to] see how I was doing in rehab.”

Upon completing his rehabilitation stay, Gary discharged home with his wife, Sherlyn. He continues his therapy on an outpatient basis at NCRH, progressing each day. He has returned to the Lions Club and is now the Second Vice District Governor with the 6NE District.

The most important advice Gary has to give for those in a similar situation?

“Little steps, in the long run, end up being big steps and NCRH helped me to be able to stand and walk again!”

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Margaret Matthews

Margaret Matthews_Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital

Margaret suffered a head injury when she tripped at a restaurant. To return home safely, she needed rehabilitation and chose NCRH.

Margaret Matthews, 72, enjoys a quiet, peaceful, retired life with her husband of 50 years, Jim. Together, they live in Windsor, CO, and spent the past 38 years caring for their family. For the past 16 years, Margaret has enjoyed participating in a ladies’ investment group. Together, the couple enjoys going to conditioning class. They also enjoy dining at their favorite restaurants.

Out for a meal one night, Margaret tripped over a folded-up carpet on the ground. She fractured her right ring finger in the fall and hit her head. Margaret remembers the entire accident. Jim brought her to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with a subdural hematoma.

Due to the injury, Margaret would need rehabilitation to safely return home. She chose Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital for her recovery. Many of their friends and family had been patients at NCRH. Margaret and Jim knew she would have an intensive therapy regimen at NCRH.

Jim would be a major influence on Margaret’s recovery. Every day, Jim was with his wife, sharing meals and supporting her. His support allowed Margaret to focus on her recovery.

Margaret also acknowledged the support of the staff at NCRH. “The nurses are so upbeat with a positive attitude,” she noted. “They are always smiling and helpful. The therapists are so patient and know when you are exhausted. And the food was fantastic. They were able to cater to my gluten-free diet.”

“I love how I was treated like an individual!”

Having put in the hard work, Margaret was able to discharge home with Jim. She looks forward to spending more time with him and getting out more often.

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James Heaberlin

After undergoing surgery on his spine, James came to NCRH to regain his strength in order to care for his stepson.

James Heaberlin rarely ever gets sick. The 82-year-old is a living testament to the benefits of an active lifestyle. James, who has lived in Fort Collins for the past 40 years, and has always been healthy. He enjoys daily three-mile walks with his dog and spending time with his family, including his wife, six children, and 16 grandkids. James is a retired military combat veteran who served in the U.S. Army and completed three combat tours. Retired from banking and insurance, James and his wife spend their days caring for their developmentally disabled stepson and doing household chores.

But one of those chores would wind up changing James’ trend of good health. Working on the garage door at his house, James fell from a ladder. In the fall, he suffered an L4 compression fracture.

Initially, James completed an outpatient therapy program to treat his injuries. Unfortunately, the pain only continued to increase. James elected to have a kyphoplasty — a minimally-invasive surgery to treat a spinal compression fracture. After surgery, James would require rehabilitation.

For his rehab, James chose Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital. He chose NCRH because of its reputation, as well as the recommendation of a close family member who had success at the hospital.

James came to NCRH fully motivated to recover. “My motivation for recovery is that the Lord told me to marry my wife and take care of my stepson,” James stated. “My one and only goal is to get back on my feet and be strong enough to take care of my stepson.”

Working hard on his recovery, James made great progress while at NCRH. He is glad he chose Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital for his recovery. “I absolutely have loved the physicians,” James said, as he prepared to discharge home. “They have always been so interested in helping me, so warm, and just extraordinary. And the nursing staff have been outstanding and always go above-and-beyond!”

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Edward Aitken

Edward Aitken has lived a life of service, with a specific passion for helping veterans.

Married for 51 years with two sons and three grandchildren, Edward Aitken has lived a life of service. He has served as the state commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of Colorado, Second Vice President of the United Veterans Coalition, and manager of the Associated Veterans of Loveland. His passion in life — if you couldn’t tell already — is helping veterans.

But when the 76-year-old was involved in a motor vehicle accident, that all came to a halt. Edward suffered an L4 compression fracture and sternal fracture. Inpatient rehabilitation would be important to get Edward back to serving others. Edward chose Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital because of past experience. His wife had been a patient at NCRH and received great care.

“The therapists were awesome! Very professional and yet, down to earth,” Edward recalled. “Jessica, Laura, and Isaiah were top notch. I’m not sure how therapy can be fun, but they made it that way! The food was great. Everyone was friendly. I can never give enough praise to all the staff for helping me get home.”

Motivated by his desire to get back to helping veterans, Edward worked hard at NCRH. As a result, he discharged home after less than two weeks. Edward is excited to resume outpatient therapy at NCRH and get back to serving the veterans in our community.

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Anne Sweet

Anne Sweet was enjoying her independent lifestyle before a serious fall landed her in the hospital.

Anne Sweet, 70, was used to her independent lifestyle. Anne lived alone but enjoyed the company of her friends, sister, nieces, and nephews. She spent her free time gardening and looking for flowers and plants at local nurseries.

One March day, Anne’s life changed forever. On the way home from a party at her sister’s house, Anne fell getting into a Lyft ride. She was hospitalized with bilateral subdural hematomas. Her hospitalization was extensive due to multiple complications. These included respiratory failure, left-sided hemiplegia, facial droop, and dysarthria.

When Anne was ready for the next stage of her recovery, her sister had a decision to make. She chose Northern Colorado Long Term Acute Hospital, which came highly recommended by the staff at the short-term acute care hospital.

Anne appreciated her sister’s decision, stating “the care was consistent, and I really liked the staff.”

After several weeks at the long-term acute care hospital, Anne discharged to a skilled nursing facility. When she could handle intensive inpatient rehabilitation, she transferred to Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital. Anne’s decision to choose NCRH was based on the hospital’s great reputation and focused rehab for her diagnosis. She also loved the hospital’s goal to get patients home.

“The staff was responsive to my needs and wanted to get me better to discharge home,” Anne said. “My sister and the staff worked together to make a comprehensive plan for me to get home. It was a team effort.”

That team received a lot of praise from Anne.

“Dr. Arrogante was a very competent physician. I loved working with Jessica, my physical therapist, because she was so professional, but also very creative with making therapy unique and fun. Jim, one of my nurses, was great about talking to me. He shared experience from his life that would help motivate me to get better. He was also very good at educating me about the medications I was taking.”

As Anne prepared to discharge to her new home — an independent living facility in Denver — she noted how things have changed since her initial hospitalization. “My goals have changed a lot during these hospitalizations,” she stated. “When I was in the LTACH, I just wanted to walk again. Now I want to be independent and live a life with my friends and family. I want to stay as healthy as possible and get back to gardening since that is my passion.”

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Leroy Rady

Leroy Rady admitted to NCRH to recover from a spinal cord injury he suffered in a fall.

Back in 2013, there was a Big Thompson River flood in Drake, CO. That is where Leroy Rady, 87, and his spouse, Marge, have lived for the past 20 years. Since the flood, Leroy has been rebuilding his home and fixing up the yard. He and Marge are very active and enjoy spending time with their three daughters and two grandchildren. He and Marge owned a telephone business and retired in 1997.

One June day, Leroy fell in his kitchen and hit his face, injuring his spine in the process. His diagnosis was an incomplete central cord syndrome secondary to a spinal cord injury at C6 with severe spinal stenosis. Unable to feel his arms and experiencing extreme pain, Leroy underwent surgical intervention.

Inpatient rehabilitation would be important for Leroy’s recovery. He chose Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital due to his daughter living close to the facility.

Leroy couldn’t be happier with the decision. He had praise for all the staff and the impact they had on his recovery. “The therapists influenced my recovery the most and made me work really hard,” he reflected. “I wanted to get home and they wanted to get me home!”

“The nurses were great,” he continued. “The CEO and director of nursing greeted me when I arrived and were very welcoming. I loved how the CEO would help in the kitchen and deliver popcorn every Friday to patients and staff. At other facilities, you don’t see this.”

Having made great progress, Leroy was ready to discharge home. That day would be an emotional one for Leroy. “The best part of my experience at NCRH was the standing ovation at the end of my stay,” he said with tears in his eyes. “Everyone I worked with was wishing me well on my journey ahead. I am so blessed to be doing as great as I am and to have worked with such a wonderful staff.”

Leroy also credits his family for their support, especially Marge.

Back home, Leroy is excited to get back to working on the house and the yard. He still has to wear a neck brace for a few more weeks but he is walking around the house and doing great!

 

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Michael Figal

Tammie Figal chose NCRH for Michael’s post-stroke recovery after it was highly recommended by friends.

Michael was so excited about his big 60th birthday party at his house. But ten minutes before the party he collapsed on the floor. Brought to the acute care hospital, Michael was diagnosed with acute basilar thrombosis. The doctors administered tPA and Michael had a thrombectomy performed.

Prior to his hospitalization, Michael lived an active life. He worked at Sunset Memorial Gardens (a funeral home) the past three years as a family service advisor. He also was the board president of the Evans Chamber for the past two years. Michael loves social events, fantasy football, and taking nature walks along the Poudre River Trail. From Greeley, CO, Michael has been married to his wife, Tammie, for 26 years.

Tammie chose Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital for Michael’s rehabilitation. Not only is NCRH close to their home, but it came highly recommended by their friends.

“My wife influenced my recovery the most,” Michael said. “She really pushed me to recuperate fast. She was also my watchdog to make sure I got the best care.”

Tammie added, “I had to be an advocate for Michael since he couldn’t speak. And I’m so glad I chose NCRH. Thank goodness we get a choice!”

Michael had great things to say about his experience at NCRH, noting specifically the attention and positivity of the staff. “The doctor came in frequently, and the PCTs always checked on me,” he noted. “The cafeteria staff was so positive and friendly. And I loved how the therapists posted my therapy schedule daily. It was a great visual communication tool.”

Upon completing his inpatient stay, Michael discharged home with a renewed freedom. “I came in a wheelchair and walked out of NCRH independently,” he exclaimed. Michael was excited to get back home to his normal life and not hospital life.

Michael’s future goals are to get back to work and to drive again. He has returned to social events and Chamber meetings. One of his greatest accomplishments is to be walking about the Poudre River Trail alone again.

“It feels like freedom,” he stated proudly.

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Rick Ybarra

Determination, positivity and a strong support system helped Rick Ybarra recover from a right leg amputation.

Strength is more than a physical trait according to Rick Ybarra. When faced with the unexpected amputation of his right leg, Rick learned it was a strong mind that allowed him to get back to his life.

Rick was working at a recycling center when a 27,000 pound container dropped on his legs. He was able to get his left leg free, but not his right. After emergency services picked him up, the next thing he remembers is waking up in the hospital after surgery to save his limb. Unfortunately, the physicians soon realized that it was not possible and Rick would need an amputation.

Rick expected an amputation below his knee, but that was not possible. To save Rick’s life, the physicians needed to amputate much higher than expected. When Rick woke up from surgery, he was angry and frustrated. Rick has never cried much in his life, but this time, Rick cried.

Rick spent over a week in the hospital before he chose to go to Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital for intense therapy. Rick wanted to get his life back.

One of the first things Rick was determined to do was go to the bathroom without assistance. Rick recalled the support of Isaiah, one of his physical therapists. “He believed in me,” Rick said. “He knew I could do it.” And he did within three days. That was Rick’s first step in getting his life back.

“I had to learn how to do everything over again,” Rick said. Rick’s wife, Candy, added: “we taking walking for granted.”

The combination of Rick’s strong mind and the expertise of his therapy and nursing teams would produce great results. After several weeks in the hospital, Rick returned home with his wife. Rick continued with outpatient rehabilitation at Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital. While his first prosthetic was a “dinosaur” according to Rick, “it felt so good to stand up again.” Even after a year, the therapy team continues to work with Rick to assist him in getting his independence back.

Rick attributes his success to being positive and not secluding himself. “Anyone going through this is bound to have ups and downs,” he said. “It is a different path for life, but one that can be positive if you listen to your therapists and have a strong mind. Don’t quit!”

The support of Rick’s family has been key to his success. They each showed their support by getting a tattoo of a bear claw. The bear claw signifies the strength that Rick had to overcome his injury.

Rick now has a new prosthetic with a custom Raiders logo on it to replace the tattoo from his amputated limb. Rick is able to drive again and has returned to activities he used to do alone. His strong mind got him where he is now, saying, “I can do it!”

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Marty Buckendorf

“I couldn’t have asked for a better place to do rehabilitation,” Marty said of his stay at NCRH.

The day started out as a normal day for Martin “Marty” Buckendorf. Marty, 65, was doing what he loved — working on cars in his garage — when he tripped over some tools and fell. Marty had difficulty moving his left arm and leg and was unable to get up. He called his spouse, but then began having difficulty with his speech.

Flight for Life transported Marty from his home in Laramie, WY to Loveland, CO. There, Marty was diagnosed with an acute right MCA ischemic CVA with hemiparesis and hemisensory loss. Simply put, Marty suffered a stroke that left him with weakness and loss of sensation on his left side.

Marty spent a week in the acute care hospital in Loveland before transferring to Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital (NCRH). Inpatient rehabilitation would be able to address the functional deficits Marty experienced as a result of the stroke. His spouse researched and toured different facilities before choosing NCRH. A friendly environment, state-of-the-art therapy gym and NCRH’s certification in stroke rehabilitation were cited as key factors in that decision.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better place to do rehabilitation,” Marty said, reflecting on the decision. “I made leaps and bounds day-to-day with my progress, thanks to the interdisciplinary team who led my care. My physician, Dr. Arrogante, checked on me frequently and had so much expertise in the management of my stroke diagnosis.”

“Everyone did a wonderful job that cared for me, from the housekeeping staff to the nurses.”

“Strokes can happen to anyone at any time,” says Dr. Revelyn Arrogante, Medical Director of Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital. “They occur when blood flow and oxygen is cut off to an area of the brain, causing brain cells to die. This, in turn, affects the abilities controlled by that part of the brain. To get the most successful results for stroke patients, we use best practices and follow evidence-based clinical practice guidelines.”

Arrogante says by doing this, the hospital can provide patients with quicker recovery times, allow more patients to discharge to home, and help patients gain more physical and cognitive independence.

At the hospital, an interdisciplinary care team works with patients and their family members. They collaborate to create individualized treatment plans. These plans are designed so patients can progress at their own ability levels. The rehabilitation team includes specially-trained physicians, nurses, case managers, and occupational, speech, and physical therapists – among other medical professionals. Patients receive 24-hour rehabilitative nursing care and daily physician management.

After 25 days at NCRH, Marty discharged home with his wife. He still receives outpatient physical, occupational and speech therapy, and uses a wheelchair to assist him. His goals for the future are getting back to his hobbies of being a mechanic, riding his motorcycles, and remodeling his house. Perhaps most of all, he looks forward to spending time with his son and two grandchildren.

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Jim Peterson

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Jim Peterson is a retired ENT physician who lives in Greeley, Colorado. Jim, 80, loves to read, walk, cook (especially bread), listen to music, and play the banjo. Jim also finds joy in being with his family, including his wife of 57 years, Sylvia, his children, and five grandchildren.

After undergoing back surgery (an elective L4-5 fusion), Jim entered a skilled nursing facility for rehabilitation. While there, he suffered a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), or stroke. This led to weakness on his right side, known as right hemiparesis.

Both his friends and the staff at the acute care hospital told Jim that Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital has the best stroke program. Trusting their recommendation, Jim admitted to NCRH to his recovery.

“Day-to-day this has been a rollercoaster ride,” Jim said of his recent medical issues, “but it is so important to turn a negative experience into a positive one. It takes gradual baby steps that you notice over time to see improvements.”

Jim also recognizes that Sylvia’s support and setting goals were critical in staying focused. “My recovery was most influenced by my wife and my desire to continue my hobbies,” he noted.

Jim Peterson with his wife, Sylvia. Sylvia’s influence was key to his recovery from a stroke.

Sylvia explains further, “his motivation for recovery is his philosophy in life. That means his hard work ethic, hardly complaining, and knowing as a physician that there are consequences if you stop trying.”

“At Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital, I felt I was working with a team and not for them,” Jim said, reflecting on his stay. “The staff was wonderful. They developed rapport with me and this was helpful in many ways.”

“Success is all about achieving modest goals,” Jim stated. “Those goals for me are to get back to playing the banjo again, becoming more ambulatory, standing for longer periods of time to cook, and of course making bread again!”

“Jim never stops working hard at improving,” Sylvia said, adding, “he even does exercise in bed!”

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Gary Lauer

“This will be my new normal, but sure couldn’t have done it without all my family and friends.”

Gary Lauer adored retired life. He spent lots of time with his spouse and grandson, went on lots of family vacations. Gary especially loved being outdoors. Gardening, mowing, hunting and fishing were all pleasurable activities for Gary.

Forty years ago, Gary had thyroid cancer. He didn’t think twice about it coming back. That was until he started having extreme back pain and weakness in his lower extremities.

Gary’s pain and weakness was the result of a non-traumatic spinal cord injury due to thyroid cancer. The spinal cord injury resulted in paraplegia, or paralysis of the legs and lower body.

After a prolonged hospitalization, Gary transferred to Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital. Gary chose NCRH because his good friend was the Director of Therapy and told him all about how wonderful the facility was for treating neurological conditions.

“Meeting the clinical liaison, Brooke, helped with the decision,” Gary added. “She was so pleasant, a great advocate, and saw me a lot prior to coming to rehab.”

Reflecting on his stay, Gary praised the many members of the team he encountered. “The staff were the motivators for my recovery. They were so encouraging and positive,” Gary stated. “They gave me a ray of sunshine and hope for my future! Dr. Walker was so personable and the therapy department and nurses were just so good. The staff was able to motivate me to get through life and prepare for my journey ahead”.

Gary is so excited to get home and back to his routine.

“This will be my new normal, but sure couldn’t have done it without all my family and friends.”

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Blake Whitsell

Blake Whitsell’s 9th concussion forced him to retire from football, and severely impacted his memory.

A talkative, social and funny guy, Blake Whitsell played defensive tackle for South Dakota State University. Then, the 20-year-old suffered a concussion during football camp. After that, Blake couldn’t even carry on a meaningful conversation.

The concussion was the third one Blake suffered during camp — and the 9th in his lifetime. The team doctor recommend he retire from football.

A history and political science major, Blake could no longer remember anything he studied. “I couldn’t read one line and remember it,” he said. Blake moved home and returned to college the following semester. But his troubles continued.

Blake and his parents continued to look for help. Eventually, a neurologist recommended Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital, where he began receiving speech therapy on an outpatient basis.

“I had no idea what I was getting into,” Blake recalled. “I understood what physical and occupational therapy was, but not speech therapy. I just had to trust the process.”

Blake now realizes the importance of understanding concussions. “Looking back, I wish I would have known more about concussions,” he said. “Maybe I would have stopped football earlier. But, I have to say, my football training is what got me through my therapy. It was tough.”

Blake worked for three months with speech therapist, Callie Halstead. She provided him with meta-cognitive strategy training, which involves “thinking about your thinking” in context of attention, memory, and reasoning exercises.

“I also provided Blake with an extensive home exercise program to help him generalize what we did in our sessions so he could apply it to his daily life,” Callie noted. “He was a fantastic rehabilitation candidate. He did everything I asked him to do, and he quickly saw positive results.”

Six-to-eight weeks into therapy, friends started to notice Blake’s focus was much better. He was able to once again build relationships and connections with others. As he progressed, Blake began beating people with “normal” brain scores. He went from a self-proclaimed “C” student to an “A” student, even getting a 97% on his final spring paper.

“I know I wouldn’t have gotten better without therapy,” Blake said. “Therapy has given me my life back. It’s helped me in every aspect of my life. While at the hospital, I was treated like a friend, not like I was a patient. I was sad to see therapy end. I call Callie my brain teacher – she gave me a super brain! She’s my hero.”

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Chester “Mac” Allsup

Mac with one of his outpatient physical therapists, Randy Willman, MPT

51-year-old Chester “Mac” Allsup of Greeley was a “jack of all trades.” He spent his time hunting, fishing, bike riding, walking his dogs, and keeping his yard in pristine condition. But most of all, Allsup was a master of cooking and BBQ.

Everything changed when Mac was involved in a car accident over the summer. The accident left him with multiple traumatic injuries, including a left tib-fib fracture, left rib fractures 3-4, left ischial ramus fracture, and left AC shoulder separation. After initial treatment at a local hospital, Mac transferred to Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital for follow up care.

Inpatient rehabilitation offered Mac an opportunity to return to his favorite hobbies.

“Initially, after my accident, I felt defeated,” Mac says. “I prided myself in my ability to do numerous outdoor activities, and now I was limited. But as soon as I came to Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital, my spirits lifted. The staff was incredibly welcoming, with nothing but positive attitudes from the start.”

“Our goal is to help patients return home quickly and with the highest level of independence possible,” says Dr. Revelyn Arrogante, Medical Director at NCRH. “We do this through services provided by our highly trained healthcare providers, advanced rehabilitation technologies, and individualized therapy plans. We want to get patients back to doing what they love at their highest abilities.”

After about two weeks of treatment, Mac returned home. He still uses a wheelchair, but is able to perform everyday tasks independently. Mac continues to receive physical and occupational therapy through the NCRH’s outpatient services. He has returned to cooking, too. Mac hopes to help at NCRH’s next employee appreciation BBQ to show the staff how much he values what they did for him.

“The staff cares about you as a person, not just as another patient,” Mac says. “They took the time to get to know me – what I like, what I dislike, my favorite hobbies. You can see the staff’s passion for caregiving. At the end of my stay, they gave me a standing ovation. Seeing all of the people who helped to get me back home cheering me on was truly remarkable.”

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Local Hospitals Help Return Gillette Man Home

When Christopher Lauck of Gillette, Wyo., mixed CLR (Calcium, Lime, Rust remover) with bleach this past summer, the result was life-threatening. The 32-year-old coal mine equipment operator went into respiratory failure after breathing in the fumes.

Respiratory failure occurs when there isn’t enough oxygen passing from the lungs into the body’s bloodstream, which creates the potential to critically harm the body’s organs like the heart and brain. In Lauck’s case, he was rushed to a local hospital and put on a mechanical ventilator to help him breathe. After about a month at the hospital, he was transferred to Northern Colorado Long Term Acute Hospital for continued care. He was still on a ventilator.

“While the ventilator plays a critical, life-saving role, it was important to get Christopher removed from it as quickly and safely as possible to avoid complications,” says Dr. Gary Pearson, Medical Director of Northern Colorado Long Term Acute Hospital. “He had received prolonged mechanical ventilation, which requires specialized medical assistance in being weaned off of it.”

At the hospital, an interdisciplinary respiratory failure team created a personalized plan of care with Lauck and his family members that was tailored to his complex, medical needs. The team used proven clinical practices, evidence-based research, and the latest technology to help remove Lauck from the ventilator within two weeks.

“The physicians and medical team were very thorough and provided excellent care,” Lauck says. “I felt good about the treatments and felt at home.”

Soon after Lauck was removed from the ventilator, he was transferred to Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital. He began participating in physical, occupational, and speech therapy. He relearned how to perform daily activities such as walking, eating, dressing – and his favorite, competitive shooting.

“My therapists found out I enjoyed competitive shooting, so during therapy, I began using a laser to shoot at targets,” Lauck says. “It was a really positive experience and helped me to see that I was going to be able to return back to doing the things I enjoyed.”

Lauck returned home at the beginning of September. He has since returned back to work, competitive shooting, and spending time with his friends.

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