Isaac's story

Photo of Isaac Johnson at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation

When Isaac Johnson, 44, arrived at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation (KIR) – Marlton after a life-altering stroke, he faced many challenges: he wasn’t able to walk, speak clearly or perform daily tasks on his own. Complicating matters, his wife and daughter could not be at his side to provide support and encouragement.

Originally from Liberia, Isaac moved to Philadelphia 15 years ago. His wife Marion and daughter Issalyne, are awaiting visas to join him. In Philadelphia, he has dedicated his career to helping others as a patient care technician and plays an active role in his church community.

Isaac’s life took an unexpected turn when he suffered a stroke while singing at church. Rushed to the University of Penn, he spent a week undergoing non-surgical treatment. Faced with the reality of his condition — limited mobility, slow speech and disorientation — Isaac went to KIR - Marlton for the next phase of recovery, drawn by its reputation and good reviews.

Upon admission, Isaac's goals were clear: walk independently, drive and return to his daily life. His physician-led team of therapists created a rigorous program, including walking practice, electric stimulation, strength training and high-intensity training to help him meet those goals.

The tipping point in Isaac’s rehabilitation came when he took his first step. In his homeland, he had seen many succumb to strokes without recovery. That moment ignited a newfound hope in him. "From the day I took my first step, I knew I was going to walk," Isaac recalled.

Physical therapy, particularly, played a vital role in his recovery. Activities focused on maximizing his steps using a high intensity training program. Isaac’s team set a target goal of at least 2,000 steps per day to maximize repetition and intensity to help him regain the ability to walk. A LiteGait harness was used in conjunction with a POLAR monitor to ensure he was in a high intensity zone. Other technologies, such as electrical stimulation using the Bioness system, were used for neuromuscular education and to improve his foot clearance.

Throughout his stay, Isaac’s pastor played a crucial role in his recovery. His pastor called the ambulance when he had the stroke and who recommended KIR - Marlton after researching rehabilitation hospitals on Isaac’s behalf. His pastor and a close friend participated in family training sessions to learn how to safely assist and support him upon discharge.

Isaac left the facility with enhanced mobility and self-care skills, eagerly anticipating returning to his community and everyday life.

"I’m looking forward to doing things for myself, sleeping in my own bed, going back to church and seeing my friends," he said.

He admitted his journey to recovery was difficult. “I learned a lot of things, although I knew them already,” Isaac reflected. “We should always be nice to one another especially those in a caregiver position. Always keep that in mind ... I never thought someone would be taking care of me,” he said, adding, “Life is fragile.”