Manuel's story

Manuel sitting in a wheelchair in the hospital hallway making a thumbs up.

Manuel Morales, a charismatic individual known by his stage name “DJ Fly,” had a life filled with music, family, and a love for construction work before a stroke dealt him a challenging hand.

The 65-year-old arrived at Hoboken University Medical Center and promptly had a second stroke while doctors worked to stabilize him. His condition eventually required his transfer to Select Special Long Term Acute Care Hospital. The course of his hospitalization was complicated by breathing and feeding tube placements, as well as gastrointestinal bleeding. By the time he could begin rehabilitation, Manuel was unable to move or walk independently, required assistance to perform daily activities such as eating and dressing, and it was difficult for him to talk.

“I was hoping he would be able to communicate with me again,” his daughter Flomina recalled after he and his family chose Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation – Saddle Brook for his next steps. His physician-led team in Kessler’s Stroke Rehabilitation Program carefully integrated medical, nursing, therapy and specialized services in a highly individualized treatment plan.

Through physical therapy, Manuel began to rebuild his strength, stamina and mobility. Occupational therapy addressed his challenges in performing daily routines, offering adaptations and energy-preserving strategies. Similarly, speech therapy focused on optimizing his ability to speak and improving his swallowing function.

Manuel steadily regained ground. “He accomplished more at Kessler compared to anywhere else during his medical recovery,” said Rosalinda. “He was always sleeping, moving very little. Kessler helped him make amazing progress, more than I could have hoped for.” Then came the moment that Flomina had been waiting for. “I will never forget the first time he told me he loved me. I saw his lips move and the words came out extremely soft, but that made all of the difference.”

By the time of his discharge, Manuel and his team’s hard work had paid off. He was walking and climbing stairs with minimal assistance, and was able to manage his daily self-care routines. With a modified diet of thin liquids and puréed foods, he was able to eat again too.

The family worked hard for his progress. “Just like my dad, the whole family had to cope with emotional distress,” Flomina said. “My dad has a lot of family and friends who truly love him and we made sure to pray every day. All of the support from family and friends has made all the difference in helping him and us get through this.”

The sisters eagerly anticipated their father’s homecoming. Rosalinda, with whom Manuel will be staying, said, “There is so much we want to do with him. I have had to tell family and friends to give us two weeks before they start to visit. I want to take him outside for fresh air. I want to keep him busy and get him back to using his laptop and listening to his music. That’s his happy place.”

Rosalinda is “so grateful” for her father’s experience at Kessler. “Thank you. God bless all of the staff. Everyone has been amazing, especially with no visitors during COVID.” Turning to her own journey, she said, “I had to stay strong … I had to keep telling myself that things will be OK. My dad is a strong man; he will pull through.”

With four girls, what he calls “a lot of grandchildren” and many friends, Manuel Morales felt tremendously supported during his 42-day rehabilitation. “The whole community loves him,” his daughter Rosalinda said, revealing that her dad, a construction worker by day, is “the DJ around town, known as ‘Fly.’ He’s the guy who wants to go everywhere and do everything with everyone.”

Asked for insights the daughters might share with other individuals and families facing challenges like theirs, Flomina offered, “Just remind yourselves to stay strong and keep the faith. There may be a storm and rain now, but it won’t last forever. You can still make something beautiful and powerful out of a bad situation.”