George Snider, a 50-year-old project manager and loving family man, lived an active and energetic life with his wife and two children. However, adventurous vacations and quality time with family came to a sudden halt when a debilitating spinal cord injury left George paralyzed.
Recalling the moment when his world turned upside down, George said, "Everything caught me completely off guard.” He was having breakfast with his daughter when “it felt like I pinched a nerve in my neck.” He tried to walk it off and his symptoms worsened. When he couldn’t move his hands, he asked his daughter to call his wife to come home and take him to the hospital.
George was diagnosed with transverse myelitis–inflammation of the spinal cord that can cause pain, muscle weakness and paralysis.
After he was medically stabilized, George came to Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation - Chester for the next step in his recovery. Upon admission, he faced several physical challenges. “The biggest thing was that the hands weren’t working, and I only had a certain range of motion … I couldn’t walk. I had no strength in any part of my body,” he said.
His physician-led care team of rehabilitation nurses, physical and occupational therapists, and other spinal cord injury specialists tailored a treatment plan to help him reach his goals of “walking, being able to balance myself, being able to get from point A to point B – things you take for granted in your everyday life.”
His care team focused on breaking down his goals into smaller, achievable steps. “And it was always based on what I wanted to do … [they] made it so that they were working on the things you knew you needed… so that you’re making forward progress.”
George admitted that there were a few therapies he didn’t enjoy, but he knew they were instrumental in his recovery. One of these was using the Xcite electrical stimulation machine to help build muscle memory and movement. “It absolutely was not my favorite task, but I did end up wanting to do it because I absolutely saw the benefit of it,” he said.
On the other hand, he enjoyed the peg and board exercise in occupational therapy. “That actually felt the best to me, because it was the first moment where I was like, “Hey, I’m getting better!” George called it a lightbulb moment where he realized that his recovery was moving in the right direction.
A big milestone came when George walked on his own for the first time. He credits the encouragement of his therapists for that accomplishment. “There has to be that trust and these guys did a great job of developing that so that I could feel like I could push myself... even if I failed, I had someone to support me,” he said. With hard work and grit, he progressed to walking a couple of laps on his own.
Throughout his rehabilitation journey, George’s family and friends were a constant source of support. His wife participated in Kessler’s family education training to ensure a safe transition home.
To others who find themselves in a similar situation, George offered this advice: “You can’t sit there and dwell on the fact that you’re in this situation … now you are doing what you need to get forward from that situation and get better from it.” He added that you don’t need to apologize to your recovery team; they are only there to help you. “Their job is to help me get better, they’re not looking to have less work, and they want me to get better.”
He described his overall Kessler experience as “outstanding … there was never a doubt in my mind because I already heard great things about Kessler. The experience itself was amazing.”
As for the environment and culture of Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation – Chester, he shared these sentiments: “You could see the enjoyment and excitement on everyone’s face when they saw someone- and not just me... you see it in the gym with everyone in there... just legitimate happiness every time someone accomplishes a goal and that becomes so exciting and motivating.”
Upon discharge, George planned to continue his recovery with in-home and outpatient therapy. He looked forward to returning to work and everyday life with his family. “Just getting back to a semblance of my life, that is the best feeling in the world.”