Dan's story

Photo of Dan Luu

Dan Luu's life had always been filled with energy and purpose. An ambitious immigrant from Vietnam, Dan pursued his dreams and settled in the U.S. where he excelled in his career as a chemical engineer and enjoyed an active lifestyle filled with gardening, travel and the companionship of his beloved dog.

One morning Dan woke up feeling unwell, believing he had food poisoning. Unaware of the gravity of the situation and lacking typical stroke symptoms, he hesitated to seek immediate medical attention. Eventually, persuaded by his concerned wife, Dan sought care and received the shocking diagnosis of a stroke.

After initial treatment at the hospital, Dan was transferred to Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation - Marlton. But his road to recovery was challenging as he battled an abdominal wall abscess – a pocket of infected fluid inside the belly – and returned to the hospital for surgery after a few days of therapy.

A month later, he returned to Kessler, even more determined to regain his independence. Upon admission, his care team noted that Dan faced profound obstacles. He had a feeding tube as he experienced difficulty swallowing. His balance was severely impacted, rendering him unable to move or walk on his own. Dan also required assistance to complete daily activities.

Dan’s interdisciplinary physician-led care team of rehabilitation nurses, physical, occupational and speech therapists, and other stroke specialists, developed a comprehensive treatment plan to help him regain his independence. For Dan, the most vital aspect of therapy was reclaiming the joy of eating. “From my perspective, the most important part was the eating, I felt like there was a loss of quality of life,” he said.

His speech therapists utilized specialized tools, including Synchrony surface electromyography (sEMG) visual feedback and the Mendelsohn maneuver – a swallowing maneuver designed to keep the larynx at its highest point– capitalizing on Dan's background as a scientist/engineer to foster his engagement. They also used Expiratory Muscle Strength Training (EMST), which uses a device to exercise and increase the maximal pressure of the expiratory muscles important for breathing, coughing and swallowing to improve expiratory muscle strength.

Focusing on improving his balance and mobility, his physical and occupational therapists incorporated innovative interventions, such as slips and trips training and perturbation-based balance exercises for fall prevention. As driving was crucial to him, therapy also focused on improving reaction time, and he was administered a pre-driving screen to ensure safe driving.

With steady motivation and dedication, Dan made remarkable progress. By the time he was discharged, he could perform daily activities and move and walk with close supervision. He was also able to finally eat soft and bite-sized foods.

Reflecting on his journey, Dan emphasized the importance of seeking prompt medical attention when something doesn’t feel right. He wholeheartedly recommended Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation – Marlton, acknowledging the pivotal role they played in his recovery.

"The hospital recommends a lot of places, but go to Kessler," Dan said.