Diana's story

Photo of Diana Thomas at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation.

Diana Thomas, a 60-year-old supervisor of patient access at Hackensack Meridian Hospital, faced an uphill battle when she suffered a stroke. Diana’s life was full: she enjoyed a career helping others, a love of music and spending time with her recently married daughter.

She was also busy moving. When she was exhausted and her leg gave out she thought that she was just tired from the move, but she was having a stroke.

"I got so tired and fatigued. I sat down and when I got up, I was stumbling, and my knee gave out, and I fell," Diana recalled. “I went to work the next day at the hospital. Things were not right; I could not remember where to turn. I got to my office, but I kept stumbling. I then went to the ER.” A series of tests revealed she had suffered a stroke, which had an impact on her mobility and cognitive functions.

When she was medically stable, Diana transferred to Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation (KIR) - Saddle Brook for the next phase of her recovery.

Choosing KIR - Saddle Brook was a decision influenced by another family member’s positive experience and by its good reputation within the medical community. "I was familiar with Kessler Saddle Brook and I trusted the care that would be provided," Diana said. Her nephew recovered from a traumatic brain injury at Kessler, so she knew she would be in good hands.

Upon admission, Diana's primary goal was to regain her mobility and restore her communication abilities. A physician-led team of therapists at KIR - Saddle Brook tailored a program to address her specific needs, focusing on high-intensity walking exercises, balance exercises, stairs and treadmill work—activities Diana found challenging but crucial for her recovery.

A key turning point in Diana's journey was the introduction of high-intensity walking by her physical therapists into her rehabilitation regimen. High-intensity walking helps patients regain strength and endurance by walking while the heart rate is at a targeted level.

Photo of Diana Thomas climbing stairs at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation.

"I could feel my leg getting stronger each day," she noted. "The rehab team here really motivated me—I had some days that I did not want to do it, but they pushed me.”

Speech therapists helped Diana to restore and strengthen her speaking and communication skills. KIR – Saddle Brook occupational therapists helped Diana with activities of daily living and strategies to manage the cognitive and memory challenges that she faced.

The emotional and physical support from Diana’s daughter played a pivotal role in her recovery and wellbeing. “She came for family training, asked a lot of questions and supported me emotionally and physically,” explained Diana. “I also have amazing friends that prayed for me and helped to keep my spirits up.”

As she looked forward to her discharge, Diana was eager to return home and continue her recovery through outpatient therapy at KIR-Saddle Brook.

Reflecting on her experience, she acknowledged the role of the rehabilitation team in her journey, "Kessler has an excellent team,” she said. “This was the perfect place for me, and I don’t feel like I would have achieved this much anywhere else."