Howard's story

Photo of Howard Geiser with his therapists at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation

Howard "Howie" Geiser, a 78-year-old retired history teacher and school administrator, lives with Rona, his wife of 55 years. Howie stays busy with a wide variety of interests. A stamp and coin collector, he loved to watch ice hockey and football (a loyal New York Giants fan for 65 years).

However, his life changed dramatically when he found himself faced with the challenge of a stroke following several falls in the home.

After experiencing falls due to loss of balance, low endurance and low blood pressure, Howie was taken by ambulance to Cooperman Barnabas Hospital. A CT scan and MRI showed that he had a stroke and had cardiac irregularities. During his stay at the hospital, a heart monitor was implanted.

“I had several falls which caused me to have a minor stroke,” said Howie.

The stroke left him with deficits in balance, endurance and memory, which affected every part of his life—from his ability to get dressed to his ability to walk, talk and swallow. In addition, Howie had a complex medical history, including a coronary artery bypass, prostate cancer and self-catheterization. Once he was medically stable, his physicians recommended an intensive inpatient rehabilitation program to help him regain mobility and independence. Howie chose Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation.

Upon admission to Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation (KIR) - West Orange, his goal was threefold: to be able to walk again, contribute to society and “most of all, I wanted to be better for my family—especially my grandkids,” said Howie.

To start, the physician-led interdisciplinary team, including physiatrists and internal medicine specialists, played a crucial role in managing Howie's blood pressure and addressing his unique medical needs while he was at KIR–West Orange. With this approach, the care team eased into Howie’s physical rehabilitation, which involved gait-training sessions with LiteGait (a system offering bodyweight support) to address his balance issues and endurance challenges.

Occupational therapy focused on standing tolerance, transfers, endurance, balance, blood pressure management, activities of daily living and cognition. Howie's improvement in endurance and strength was notable, although he did still need assistance for transfers and some cognitive activities.

Speech therapy included a video fluoroscopic swallow study, revealing mild pharyngeal residue (incomplete swallowing). Effective strategies were implemented to enhance his swallow function and address mild voice deficits that Howie was experiencing.

“The people here are well trained [and] understanding,” said Howie. “They assess you and push you as far as you think you can go.”

Howie acknowledged the importance of the support of his wife and adult children while in KIR-West Orange. His son and daughter visited him regularly despite a long drive from New York, which lifted his spirits. He appreciated Rona’s and their participation in family education programs to ensure a safe transition home.

As Howie prepared to leave the hospital, he anticipated continuing outpatient rehabilitation at Kessler Rehabilitation Centers.

And in true teacher spirit, he graded his overall rehabilitation experience at KIR- West Orange an “A+.”