Orlando “Jimmy” Dinnocenzio was experiencing pain from his back down through his right leg. He was seen in the local emergency room, where a CT scan revealed severe spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spine that puts pressure on the nerves resulting in pain and weakness. The 78-year-old former businessman, who is legally blind, was sent home with medications to relieve the pain. When his condition worsened, Jimmy returned to the hospital, underwent additional testing and was placed on intravenous steroids for pain management and fluids to combat a kidney issue. Doctors determined that Jimmy was not a candidate for spine surgery, given his history of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, and recommended physical rehabilitation.
Jimmy and his wife, Fran, selected Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation. Upon admission, Jimmy was still in significant pain and unable to walk. His strength, balance, endurance and ability to go about daily activities were severely limited. But he had a positive attitude and a great sense of humor. “I was ready ... I wanted them to push me. I wanted to get better and be as independent as I could.”
Jimmy’s physician-led rehabilitation team put in place an individualized program of care, modified to address his visual impairments. Doctors and rehabilitation nurses focused on pain management and the safe, effective use of medications. They also provided extensive education and training to both Jimmy and his wife.
In physical therapy, Jimmy worked on rebuilding strength, balance and mobility through a wide range of activities, including aerobic conditioning and strengthening, dynamic standing balance and sciatic nerve glide exercises. As Jimmy progressed, he practiced negotiating uneven surfaces and stairs. He also used the Bioness Integrated Therapy System (BITS), an advanced computer-based program that helped to improve visual recognition, coordination, reaction time and other sensory deficits.
Similarly, in occupational therapy, Jimmy gained critical skills and strategies to manage pain, such as re-positioning techniques and the use of lumbar supports, and learned how to safely perform everyday tasks at home and when out in the community. He also worked with a neuropsychologist, who helped him adjust to the many changes in his lifestyle.
“My therapists understood my pain and my limitations. They took it one step at a time, which is the only way to do it,” said Jimmy. “They challenged me, but I liked that.”
Jimmy also liked sharing a joke or a kind word with his fellow patients and therapists. “We all need a good laugh to forget our troubles,” he said.
What Jimmy won’t soon forget is the care he received. “I’m so grateful to the people at Kessler for helping me get to where I am. I’m going home, stronger than I’ve been in a long time. The key? Don’t give up ... don’t quit. You’ll never know what you can do if you don’t try.”