Jeffrey's story

Photo of Jeffrey Kittle at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation.

At 62, Jeffrey ‘Jeff’ Kittle, a seasoned construction and maintenance worker, faced a formidable medical journey when complications from bone infections and diabetes led to the life-altering decision to undergo a below-knee amputation of his right leg.

The amputation surgery at Morristown Medical Center marked a turning point in his life. After he stabilized, he came to Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation – Chester to rebuild his life. When he was admitted to Kessler, Jeff faced challenges with balance and walking, relying on a walker for support. Climbing stairs was impossible and everyday activities were difficult.

Jeff wanted to walk independently again and return to his hobbies – working on antique tractors and selling firewood. The physician-led interdisciplinary team at Kessler collaborated to develop a comprehensive care plan that included a specialized residual limb-shaping program to help him achieve his goals.

The Kessler team would prepare Jeff for the future prosthetic phase, ensuring he had the best chance of success upon discharge. To get there, the comprehensive therapy approach covered all aspects of Jeff's daily life. While his physical therapists focused on improving his balance and mobility, his occupational therapists gave him the adaptive techniques to perform daily activities from kitchen tasks and bathroom use to showering and even car transfers.

“They kind of covered everything possible. I mean they had me in the kitchen, in the bathroom, in the shower, in and out of the car, doing stairs,” Jeff said.

David, one of Jeff's dedicated therapists, played a pivotal role in his progress. With confidence in Jeff's capabilities, David guided him through various exercises and activities, encouraging independence and fostering rapid progress. “He was very confident in what I was doing,” David recalled. “He had faith in me.”

Jeff also enjoyed his time spent with Kessler’s Canine Companion dog, Obie, whose company brought warmth and joy during his stay. “I would lay on the mat with Obie and he would be laying there and I would take my elbow and rub his back,” Jeff said. It reminded me a little bit of my dogs at home who I hadn’t seen in months.”

Jeff's rehabilitation was filled with key milestones, from mastering limb wrapping to walking independently with a rolling walker. Each achievement brought him renewed confidence. Throughout his rehabilitation journey, Jeff deeply appreciated the love and support from his family. His wife actively participated in the education and family training program, learning how to assist Jeff during his rehabilitation, and his son set up handicap equipment at home to ensure a safe transition.

He credits the expertise and cooperation of his care team for the confidence he felt in reaching his goals. “They definitely know what they’re doing. No doubt about it,” he said.

Upon discharge, Jeff expressed deep gratitude for the professional and caring staff. “I think they are a fantastic group of people down there ... they were very encouraging,” he continued. “Everyone was just very nice to me, so I have to say that I recommend that place to anybody and everybody.”

Looking ahead, Jeff anticipated the prosthetic phase of his rehabilitation knowing it would also be a difficult journey. He remained committed to taking the time needed to ensure a successful transition to using a prosthetic limb. “I just want to walk on two feet … And I think I will do alright,” he said.