For Susan “Suz” Welch, the beauty of nature has always been her inspiration, even during times of great personal challenge. Whether woodworking or taking photographs, Welch, a former camp director, loved the peace and tranquility of the trees and fields around her.
A native of Iowa, Suz came to the University of Minnesota Medical Center for a spinal fusion surgery in the spring of 2014. Her condition had left her partially paralyzed, without the functional use of her legs or the ability to sit. Welch spent one month in the Acute Rehabilitation Center (ARC), working hard at regaining important parts of her independent life.
Initially, Suz could not sit at the edge of the bed without significant support. By the time she left the ARC, she was able to sit independently for at least 10 minutes to eat breakfast on the edge of the bed. Similarly, she initially required complete assistance for dressing, but by the time she went home, she was able to dress herself independently with dressing equipment.
Welch was also fitted with a power wheelchair, and returned to her country home in Iowa with her partner,
Carolyn. Special care was taken in fitting her chair, to accommodate her hobbies of woodworking and photography.
Welch has returned to visit a few times in the past two years, but most recently surprised the staff with a donation of some of her nature photography to beautify the walls of the ARC (see cover photo). “You guys run a super thing,” Welch says. “I loved the nurses, the aides, the PT folks and the OT folks. I am not kidding when I say I learned how to live on the 5th floor!”
It all started like a regular day for Joe Gingerelli. He got in his car and began his drive to work as a manager at Militello Motors in Fairmont. As he pulled up, he knew immediately that something was wrong. “I couldn’t move my left side,” he said. “My leg felt like it weighed 500 lbs.”
As coworkers hurried to help him, Joe remembers telling them, “I think I’m having a stroke.” As it turns out, he was right. Having been scheduled for vascular surgery at Fairview Southdale later in the year, Joe was adamant that he also wanted to go to a Fairview facility for his care and recovery from this emergency.
He credits the staff at Fairview Southdale for helping him make a smooth transition to the Fairview Acute
Rehabilitation Center, where he began intensive physical and occupational therapy to improve his strength, balance and overall independence to do the things that were important to him. He characterizes his therapist Sharon Kimble as “bright, conscientious, stern, but supportive… She makes me work!” Together, they practiced things like standing up from a seated position in a chair, as well as sitting back down again, which involved trusting where the chair was without seeing it. Because Joe had some vision issues initially, being able to lower himself down without balance issues was a “powerful” step.
He also worked with Sharon on walking up and down stairs, another milestone. As he prepared to go home, Joe reflected on the journey that had brought him there. A person of deep faith, he believes the stroke was, in a way, a gift, waking him up enough to the major life changes he needed to make, without hurting him too badly. “I got lucky,” he says. “Now I’ve put things in the proper order; God’s #1.”
He has now stopped smoking and vows to continue to practice the lessons he learned during his time at the Acute Rehabilitation Center. “They can give you the exercises but you’ve got to work,” he says. “A positive attitude is 90%.” As he steps out into the light once again, Joe is focused on his recovery and his goals. “The [acute rehab team] gave me confidence… they were always there to say, ‘you can do this.’”