Luis' story

Photo of Luis Guarquila Zhindon at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation.

It was just another day at work for Luis Guarquila Zhindon, a 46-year-old heavy machinery operator from Ecuador. A husband and dad to three, Luis was working on a mountain when the unimaginable happened.

“I was working on a mountain cutting trees down with an excavator and there was a rock derailment on the machine’s track,” recalled Luis. “As a result, my helper moved quickly out of the way, at which point his pants got stuck on a control, which then moved the machine’s arm … towards me; I tried to jump out of the way but the machine caught my left leg.”

Luis’ life changed in an instant. He was flown to Hackensack Hospital in critical condition. Luis needed multiple surgeries, leading to the eventual amputation of his left leg. He remained at the hospital for a month and half for recovery. At the end of this time, he was unable to walk, move or dress himself, but he was ready for the next phase of recovery that would help him relearn these skills.

Choosing Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation (KIR) - Saddle Brook was an easy decision for Luis. “I decided to come here because people recommended it as one of the best,” he said. “I did not make a mistake.” He embraced the rehabilitation process with determination. His primary goal upon admission was to regain independence so he could go home and spend time with his family.

Luis made steady progress under the care of a physician-led team of nurses, physical and occupational therapists and other specialists. He is thankful for the expertise and motivation of the staff at KIR - Saddle Brook. To condition his body to return home, he engaged in core exercises, UBE bike (a bike for the upper body, using arms to pedal), standing and mat exercise programs and bumping up stairs. Luis participated in various therapeutic activities, embracing them all because he knew they were helpful.

“My favorite was a wheelchair race in a group session,” he said. “I liked competing against my friends.”

Luis was soon able to use a wheelchair independently, walk a little with a walker by hopping, get in out and of bed and get dressed. To prepare for a prosthetic leg, Luis worked on pelvic disassociation exercises, trunk range of motion and weight bearing exercises on his left residual side.

Reflecting on his recovery, Luis emphasized the importance of giving 100% effort and not giving up. Every milestone, no matter how small, became a significant achievement.

Luis’ family was there to celebrate his milestones over his six and a half week stay at KIR - Saddle Brook.

“I think family support is so important and I am lucky to say my family has been by my side every day—especially my wife,” said Luis. As he anticipated leaving the hospital, he looked forward to continuing rehabilitation, spending time with his children and getting a prosthetic leg.

Describing his overall experience at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation - Saddle Brook as extraordinary, Luis commended the staff's teamwork and dedication.

Through the process, he learned the importance of maintaining self-esteem. His advice to others facing similar challenges: "Believe in yourself and do not give up for nothing or anyone."

Since being discharged, Luis came back to KIR - Saddle Brook for inpatient prosthetic training and continues to attend outpatient therapy at Kessler Rehabilitation Center.