Mathias' story

Mathias sitting in a wheelchair wearing a mask.

Mathias Brandl, 77, and his wife were enjoying a summer day at their lake house when Mathias suddenly began to experience dizziness and weakness on the right side of his body. He decided to lie down for a few hours. When he woke up, the symptoms were worse and his wife took him to Valley Hospital. Doctors performed a CT scan and discovered a transient ischemic attack — a temporary period of symptoms similar to a stroke. The Hungary native was discharged home to rest.

But he was back in the hospital the very next day. “I couldn’t pick up the coffee pot because I felt so weak,” he explained.

Extensive testing, including an MRI and CT angiography, showed that Mathias had a stroke. Once stabilized, he was left with impairments in neuromuscular strength and control, balance, endurance, range of motion and cognitive abilities.

“I had to think about what was going to happen without the use of my hand or my leg,” he said.

After a week in the hospital, he and his family chose Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation – Saddle Brook to continue his recovery. “I heard they were a good fit, they help a lot of people and it was in my hometown,” Mathias recalled.

Upon admission, Mathias required assistance to perform all daily activities including dressing, cooking and climbing stairs, and paralysis of the right side of his body rendered him unable to move or walk independently. His main goals were “to be able to walk and use my right hand.” Kessler’s experienced team of stroke rehabilitation specialists, including nurses, physical and occupational therapists and other clinical experts, tailored a treatment plan to help him reach those goals.

He benefited from three hours of daily physical and occupational therapy focused on building his strength, balance and mobility through various exercises and innovative technologies. He participated in transfers and stair negotiation training with an ankle foot orthosis and quad cane to improve gait and the function of his right leg. His program also incorporated the functional electrical stimulation (FES) bike, which provides low-level electrical stimulation to lower extremities, promoting muscle movement.

A key turning point for Mathias was “when I got up and started walking with the cane and moving a bit. That was the point where I felt I could continue to progress.”

After three weeks at Kessler, he was proud of the progress he made. “The physical therapy helped me a lot. I am walking good compared to when I first came,” Mathias recollected.

“I would recommend Kessler very highly to my friends and people that ask,” he said.

Upon discharge, he was looking forward to returning to what he enjoyed most: fishing and spending time with his family. “I want to get back to my lake house to do some fishing,” he said.

Mathias planned to continue his recovery through home-based and outpatient therapy.