George's story

Photo of George Stronghilos at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation.

George Stronghilos, a husband, father of three, grandfather to seven and great-grandfather to one, got a bacterial infection on his left hand that changed his life. The infection led to sepsis (when the body mounts an overactive response to infection) and required six surgeries, including the removal of the top of his hand, to stabilize. He also needed a wound vacuum-assisted cleaning (VAC), a therapy that helps wounds close and heal, that he found further limited his physical functions.

George had been discharged from the hospital to home, but he spent the majority of his time in bed. He couldn’t walk well, was weak, off-balance and was finding it difficult to do things one-handed, especially with a wound VAC.

Having had great experiences with Kessler for therapy in the past, he chose Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation (KIR) - Chester, to accelerate his recovery.

At KIR - Chester, George’s physician-led care team guided him through intensive physical and occupational therapy. Physical therapy focused on enhancing his strength, endurance and balance with the use of a straight cane. His sessions began with a 1000-foot walk to build endurance and so he could learn to manage his wound VAC while walking.

Occupational therapy concentrated on one-handed techniques for activities of daily living such as oral hygiene, hand hygiene, bathing and dressing. "You don't realize how much you rely on your non-dominant hand," George remarked. He successfully learned to perform these tasks independently. Adaptive equipment like buttonhooks and Dycem (a non-slip material) aids helped him improve his performance of daily tasks.

George's positive attitude and determination played a crucial role in his progress. Despite his unique challenges, he found strength in the supportive environment at KIR - Chester, where staff and fellow patients offered encouragement and camaraderie.

George's family, especially his wife Krystyna, provided support throughout rehabilitation.

“I cannot say enough good things about my wife—she was phenomenal. She supported me all the way; my kids supported me,” said George. “I felt somewhat depressed at times because I’ve put such a burden on them, but again, the positivity of [the] staff just made me work through it.”

By the end of his stay, George could walk independently with a cane.

As George prepared to return home, he reflected on his time at KIR - Chester with appreciation. "I can't thank the staff at Kessler enough. Every person took a personal interest in me and my situation," he said, adding that “the support and encouragement of the other patients was equally important in enabling my recovery.”