Leroy's story

Leroy Pettey in a wheelchair wearing a mask and neck brace  in the hospital hallway with a therapist adjusting his foot.

Leroy Pettey led a busy life in the construction industry until a five-story fall landed him in a wheelchair.

For years after the accident, the retired craftsman faced crippling back and leg pain, and difficulty walking. As time passed, his symptoms grew to include numbness, weakness and spasms in his back and legs. Leroy returned to his doctor.

He was diagnosed with severe spinal stenosis, narrowing of the spinal cord – the compression was causing pain and weakness in his back and legs. He underwent several decompression surgeries at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

Doctors fused several vertebrae together and removed a small portion of Leroy’s lower spine to relieve pain and pressure. The surgery was a success, but the spinal cord compression and procedures left Leroy with an uphill recovery. That’s when he turned to Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation – Marlton.

Upon admission, Leroy was unable to walk or stand and had difficulty performing daily activities like dressing and showering. Despite these challenges, he remained motivated to reach his goals. “I wanted to be able to walk and have more independence,” he said.

The physician-led Marlton team of rehabilitation nurses, physical and occupational therapists and other specialists developed a care plan to enable Leroy to regain his independence.

Leroy recalls the personalized care he received from his rehabilitation team. He was motivated by how the “therapists tailored the activities for me and explained everything along the way.”

In physical therapy, Leroy worked on a variety of exercises aimed at improving his muscle strength, balance and mobility. One device he regularly used to help with gait training and walking was a body-weight supported treadmill that helped him progress to walking 150 feet with the aid of a walker. During another exercise, he practiced getting in and out of the car safely using a mock car.

Leroy also worked with occupational therapists on a range of daily living activities such as toileting, doing the dishes, making the bed and dressing. Leroy’s wife Gwendolyn was by his side during many treatment sessions, participating in Kessler’s Care Partner training program. She attended therapy sessions to better understand Leroy’s needs and how to support him once he returned home.

After repeated therapy sessions over three weeks, Leroy mastered the skills needed to live independently. At discharge, he was able to walk aided by a walker and get in and out of the car with minimal assistance. He planned to continue his recovery with home therapy.

Reflecting on his rehabilitation journey, Leroy exclaimed, “It has been a blessing. I am walking and now I have my independence.”