Jane Indruk loved to stay active, often walking five miles a day, and enjoyed spending time with her grandchildren. However, the retired nurse practitioner and educator’s lifestyle suddenly turned upside down.
“In June of 2022 I sought treatment for increasing upper back pain,” Jane recalled. “I was diagnosed with breast cancer which had metastasized to my spine. After four out of ten radiation treatments, I suddenly became paralyzed from my chest down. My MRI showed tumors with collapse of T-4. I had emergency spinal stabilization with a rod from T2-T4. I remained paralyzed and was hospitalized for three months.”
Living with paralysis was, as Jane described it, “drastically different.” Once active and independent, Jane became “totally dependent on my husband for everything. I could not care for my house or my grandchildren.” Being immobile affected every aspect of her life, including basic needs: “It was very difficult to adjust to wearing diapers; not being able to use the bathroom greatly restricted me.”
Jane chose to begin rehabilitative treatment at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation – West Orange. “I had been an inpatient at Kessler and was very impressed by your therapists,” she said. “I knew of your great reputation, and having been in the medical field, I had heard many success stories from patients and families.”
When she began therapy, she couldn’t feel her feet, had no trunk control and was extremely anxious about falling.
Jane’s first meeting with Abby Muller, her ReVital cancer rehab certified physical therapist, became a turning point: “As Abby asked me about my goals and did my assessment, she made me feel my goals were attainable. I was more optimistic than I had been since I became paralyzed.”
Jane was able to walk with a walker by her third visit. Abby continued to encourage Jane in her recovery, always reassessing and adapting as needed – such as when Jane experienced pathological fractured ribs and needed adapted therapy so her ribs could heal.
Jane’s accomplishments didn’t end there. Abby created a model of Jane’s bathroom so she could practice navigating it with a walker, and she was able to begin using the bathroom again. She successfully worked on entering her daughter’s house, which required using stairs without a railing. Another accomplishment was standing for prolonged periods: “My biggest accomplishment after one month of home therapy was to stand at the sink with two physical therapists for 30 minutes,” she exclaimed.
Jane anticipates continued independence – spending time with her grandchildren, gardening, doing more in her home – and maybe even kayaking. “Abby is working with me on strategies,” she says.
Jane has expressed deep appreciation for Abby, as well as all the staff at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation – West Orange. They guided her not only toward physical rehabilitation but also to mental and emotional healing as well – instilling confidence where there was anxiety and optimism where there was defeat.
“I have gained an enormous respect and admiration for physical therapists and the difference they make in patients’ lives,” Jane said.