Dorothy's story

Dorothy Snyder smiling

Dorothy Snyder, a resilient 87-year-old retiree, mother of four, grandmother of six and former cashier, showed that age is just a number when it comes to recovery and rehabilitation.

“I am from Garfield and I live in senior housing,” she said. “For work, I was a cashier for many years with my last job at Shoprite.”

During a scheduled visit with her pain management doctor, Dorothy’s life took a surprising turn. She was there to schedule an injection for back pain, but her vital signs revealed that her heart was in atrial fibrillation (AFib), an abnormal heart rhythm that can lead to stroke, heart failure and heart-related deaths. Dorothy was rushed to Hackensack Hospital.

During her two-week stay at the hospital, she underwent an EKG and full cardiac workup, revealing that she’d had a mild heart attack. She was started on medication to control AFib and temporarily required oxygen.

However, staying in bed for a prolonged time made Dorothy weak, and she needed specialized rehabilitation to regain her strength and balance before she could safely return home.

Dorothy's choice for rehabilitation was Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation (KIR) - Saddle Brook, a decision influenced by her daughter's positive experience at the facility. Upon admission, Dorothy's primary goals were to regain her ability to walk and improve her balance. Her physician-led rehabilitation team worked with Dorothy to put a treatment plan in place.

Throughout her stay at KIR – Saddle Brook, she leaned on the hospital’s team of therapists to help her improve her strength, skills and mobility.

Barely able to go from sitting to standing without being winded when she began, Dorothy worked with her physical therapists to build strength, balance and endurance. They carefully monitored her blood pressure, heart rate, weight and medication.

Dorothy made steady progress. While still relying on a rollator for support, she grew stronger and began to manage everyday tasks with increasing independence.

But sometimes she felt like progress wasn’t coming quickly enough. "I like to do things in a hurry, and I learned that sometimes I need to slow down," she said.

Dorothy appreciated the collaborative approach of her therapy team and emphasized that their combined effort helped keep her focused and moving forward. She particularly enjoyed the support and encouragement of her physical therapist, who helped her recognize the progress she was making. “Everybody—nurses, aides, therapists—have been amazing and a huge part of my recovery,” Dorothy said.

During this time, her daughter attended family training and meetings so that she and her brother could help Dorothy when she returned home.

After less than two weeks, she was able to return home with the help of her children and with continued support from home health rehabilitation. “I am still working towards walking down the street and going to the store by myself, but I am stronger than I was before,” she said.

When asked what advice she would offer to other individuals and their families, she said, “My advice for future patients is to enjoy their stay because the staff will make it the best they can. It is definitely not home, but it is just like being home—with a little extra help.”