Ramon's story

Ramon sitting in his hospital room wearing a mask.

Since coming to the United States almost 50 years ago, Ramon Diaz has held a variety of jobs — electrician, machinery manager and even in a position at Playskool “where we made toys like Mr. Potato Head and GI Joe.” Not one to slow down, his free time was reserved for return visits to the Dominican Republic. Then a motor vehicle accident turned his life upside down.

While driving down a hill, Ramon’s brakes failed and he slammed into a tree. This grandfather of four suffered a traumatic brain injury and leg trauma. He was swiftly transported to Valley Hospital for treatment. Although stabilized, he grappled with a range of physical and functional challenges.

Upon admission to Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation – Saddle Brook, Ramon described walking independently as his biggest challenge. “I couldn’t move my right leg,” he recalled. His goal when he started intensive therapy was to “walk again so I could go home and be with family.”

His physician-led care team of rehabilitation nurses, physical and occupational therapists and other specialists assessed his personal needs and developed a plan to help him regain his independence.

For three weeks, Ramon benefited from a range of hands-on physical and occupational therapies. His physical therapists focused on improving his balance and stamina through gait-training and strengthening exercises. With strength beginning to return, Ramon hit a critical point in his recovery. “I was in the bed and I started moving my leg on my own … after that, things got better,” he recalled. Ramon then progressed from moving his right leg independently to standing on his own.

Similarly, in occupational therapy, Ramon reinforced his ability to perform daily activities. . He marveled at the inventiveness of his therapists' exercises. “I remember playing dominos and having to stand up while playing. I never thought I would be doing that in therapy,” he shared.

As he approached the end of his time at Kessler, Ramon acknowledged the exceptional care he had received from his team. “The therapy was perfect and beautiful. The people here are like family.”

At discharge Ramon was “doing much better…I had a lot of therapy and everything they did helped me.” He was looking forward to returning home with his daughter, who had participated in Kessler’s hands-on care partner training, to relax and spend time with his four grandchildren.

He encourages individuals facing brain injury rehabilitation to consider Kessler. “It is like a family. It is a good place that will help you.”