John Sari isn’t sure whether he fell out of bed that morning or got up and then collapsed. He just knows his wife Lori found him on the floor around 5:30 a.m. and called 9-1-1. Rushed to Virtua Voorhees Hospital, the 48-year-old husband and father underwent a CT scan that revealed a cerebellar mass, a non-malignant tumor, and obstructive hydrocephalus, a life-threatening blockage of fluid in the brain. A tube had to be inserted to assist his breathing.
John was transferred to Cooper Medical Center in Camden where neurosurgeons performed a highly delicate procedure to remove the tumor and a tracheotomy to help him breathe. Once stabilized, John, a specialty chemical sales and marketing professional faced complex challenges. He recalls struggling with “speaking, eating, sitting and feeding myself” as well as walking and going about daily activities, like shaving or showering.
His journey to regain his independence began with John and his family choosing Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in Marlton. John’s physician-led care team -- rehabilitation nurses, physical and occupational therapists, speech language pathologists, dietitians and other rehab specialists – tailored a plan to meet his individual needs and goals.
With great determination, John slowly progressed. His physical therapists focused on restoring his strength, balance, endurance and mobility. He said a turning point came when he was “able to stand up for the first time,” which led to him taking a few steps, then a few more and eventually to climbing stairs. John worked with his occupational therapists to relearn how to perform everyday tasks, like bathing, grooming and dressing, all of which had once seemed so easy.
John also focused on rebuilding his thinking and cognitive skills and, with the help of his speech therapists, improving his speaking abilities. He also benefitted from Vital-Stim®, a special non-invasive therapy that uses an electrical current to stimulate the muscles responsible for swallowing.
Although visitation was restricted due to COVID-19, John stayed connected to his wife Lori and their daughter via phone calls and FaceTime. He admits those virtual visits, combined with the encouragement of his Kessler team, inspired him. “I worked hard,” he said, proudly adding, that now “I can talk and eat. I had my trach removed - and my physical therapists got me walking again.”
John described his Kessler experience as “excellent,” but admitted he was looking forward togoing home, being with his family, playing with his dogs and eating ‘real food.’”
He also shared his thoughts on the importance of being “open and honest about what you are facing. I had to learn my limits and my strengths in order to succeed.”