Uon's story

Photo of Uon Park.

At 83, Uon Park, a retired restaurant manager originally from Seoul, Korea, never imagined he would need to relearn the most basic tasks. An avid golfer and a man who loved to tinker around the house, Park's life took an unexpected turn following a stroke, specifically a subarachnoid hemorrhage.

On the day of his stroke, Uon recalled working at his son’s business – when exhaustion suddenly overwhelmed him. Unable to stand, his family called for an ambulance. Uon underwent emergency surgery, and he landed in the intensive care unit.

Recovering from a stroke may be one of the greatest challenges a person will ever face. Put on a ventilator, Uon spent many weeks in the hospital. As a smoker, he struggled with mucus buildup after the ventilator was initially removed but had no strength to cough it out. He was put on the ventilator again for another week. "I had no power," Uon said. The extended hospital stay left him drained, making it difficult for him to stand, walk or even leave his bed unassisted.

Once he was medically stable, he was in need of intense rehabilitation that would allow him to get back to doing the things he loved. He chose Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation (KIR) - Saddle Brook. “My wife went to West Orange, so my family knew Kessler,” he said. “They wanted to give me another chance to get better.”

Upon arrival at KIR – Saddle Brook, the physician-led rehabilitation team worked with Uon to put a treatment plan in place. Uon’s goals were clear: to walk, use the bathroom and eat independently.

Uon would require physical, occupational and speech therapy. Physical therapy activities aimed to strengthen his body and increase his endurance and activity tolerance. Occupational therapy focused on refining his fine motor skills and completing household tasks such as cleaning and cooking. Speech therapy would help Uon strengthen his throat muscles and improve the coordination of his swallowing.

Throughout his rehabilitation, Uon engaged in various therapies. His physical therapy included gait training and improving movement acceptance. When he first arrived at KIR – Saddle Brook, he needed two people to walk 10 feet and progressed to walking 150 feet with minimal assistance. In occupational therapy, he learned strategies for lower body dressing and bed mobility, moving from maximal assistance to minimal assistance.

Speech therapy helped strengthen his throat muscles, with exercises like effortful swallows, designed to rebuild the muscles in the mouth and throat that would help Uon enjoy eating again. His family was deeply involved in his speech therapy, helping him to practice swallowing strategies and exercises.

“The therapists here really helped me by getting me to walk and eat,” Uon remarked.

The love and support of his family was instrumental in his recovery. “My family [came in] every day,” said Uon. “They learned a lot from therapy and helped me to participate every day and achieve my goals.”

Reflecting on his time at KIR – Saddle Brook, Uon described the experience as "superb" but acknowledged it took a lot of his energy. He looked forward to getting home and getting back to his golf game. He also knew he would continue his rehab at home.

He advised other stroke survivors to keep pushing. "Don't give up—it’s easy to give up,” he said, “If you keep going, it will benefit you later."