Thomas' story

Photo of Thomas Crowe at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation.

At 67, Thomas Crowe faced one of the most challenging periods of his life. His life was turned upside down by a medical condition that led to a left below-knee amputation.

Thomas led an active life, filled with the demands of a career in law enforcement and the family joy created by his wife, two daughters and four grandchildren. However, a battle with diabetes and Charcot foot, a severe complication of diabetes, forced him into early retirement and presented him with obstacles he had could have never imagined.

“Before my illness, I was working in the police department and my illness abruptly ended my career and forced me into retirement,” Thomas said. “I would still be working if I didn’t have Charcot foot.”

As a diabetic with neuropathy, Thomas was used to periodic swelling in his left ankle and didn’t give it much thought, until one morning he woke up and his entire left foot was swollen. Once in the emergency room, X-rays indicated that his left foot had collapsed. He was diagnosed with Charcot’s foot, a rare complication of diabetes that causes bone weakening in the feet.

This began a journey that included eight surgeries to rebuild his foot. “Everything was going well and healing good, until I got MRSA in the hospital after one of my later surgeries,” said Thomas.

He fought the infection on and off for two years, but it settled in his foot bones. “That was when the decision was made to undergo an amputation.”

After his difficult decision was made, Thomas chose Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation (KIR) - Saddle Brook for rehabilitation, which marked the turning point – emotionally and physically.

Inspired by a newspaper article and a former patient's success story, Thomas saw KIR- Saddle Brook not just as a facility but as a beacon of hope. "I read an article from the newspaper about a patient who had a great experience here. And he was on a golf course. I’m a golfer. I contacted him and he has been my mentor through this whole process," Thomas exclaimed, highlighting the power of sharing patient experiences to help others through their recovery.

Upon admission, Thomas’ goal was clear: to walk without assistance. His team of physician-led therapists created a comprehensive plan that allowed him to reach his goals. Not only did his therapists help him to learn strategies so he could continue being independent and activities to strengthen his body, they emphasized how to do everything safely.

His physical and occupational therapists focused on improving his upper body strength to help him transfer safely to and from bed into a wheelchair and increase his mobility. As his limb healed and his strength and stamina increased, Thomas was fitted for a prosthetic leg.

"This is the best facility I’ve been in, period,” said Thomas. “I was in a sad situation and [they] helped me out of it. The staff is phenomenal."

Thomas’ rehabilitation journey was not without its challenges, but his determination, coupled with the support of his family, particularly his wife, played a crucial role. "My wife is a retired nurse and she has been helping me through this whole process. She came in for care partner training the week before I discharged," Thomas noted.

As discharge approached, Thomas looked forward to home-cooked meals and quality time with his grandchildren. His experience was transformative, to say the least. He advised others facing similar challenges to follow the direction you are given. "You have to listen to the therapists and pay attention.” he said. “And you have to make sure you follow up with everything when you go home.”

Since discharge, Thomas returned to KIR-Saddle Brook and successfully completed prosthetic training and continues outpatient therapy at Kessler Rehabilitation Center.