Walter's story

Photo of Walter Chomow.

At 77, Walter Chomow, a retired driver for the movie industry from New York City, woke up one day, could not speak correctly and didn’t feel right. He was taken to St. Mary’s Hospital, where CT scans, blood tests and an MRI indicated that he had a stroke.

In the days after, he struggled with speech, swallowing and mobility.

Once he was medically stable, Walter needed a place to continue his recovery. He chose to go to Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation (KIR) - Saddle Brook. “I was here after my first stroke,” he said. “The treatment was good and the people are friendly.”

Upon admission, Walter had severe oropharyngeal dysphagia, a condition caused by stroke, which affects the muscles in the mouth and throat, making it difficult to swallow. Walter recalled the initial difficulties he experienced. It was difficult to eat or drink, and the impact was profound. “When I first got here, I was very emotional,” he said. “I wanted to go home and live as normally as possible.”

A physician-led team of therapists created an individualized treatment plan for Walter. To help him reach his goals, he would require physical, occupational and speech therapy.

First, he worked intently with a speech therapist who introduced exercises such as effortful swallows and expiratory muscle strength training to strengthen and coordinate his swallowing. The Select Medical Water Protocol, which allowed the consumption of ice chips, was introduced to accelerate his progress. After daily therapy, Walter was able to resume a diet of solids and liquids.

Physical and occupational therapy sessions at KIR - Saddle Brook focused on improving Walter’s balance, coordination and safety awareness, integrating activities from his daily life. A favorite activity was cooking potato latkes, a specialty of his. Cooking as an activity strengthens functional mobility and cognitive skills, such as planning and organizing. Walter's commitment and the tailored therapeutic approach led to significant improvements.

“All of the therapies I’ve received have helped me to feel more like myself,” he said.

In addition to the support of KIR - Saddle Brook therapists, Walter found his son’s encouragement to work hard helpful. Together they learned that recovering from a stroke is not easy, physically or emotionally.

“During this process I have learned that I’m fragile,” acknowledged Walter. “Since the stroke I seem to be more emotionally fragile.”

As he readied for discharge, Walter advised others in similar situations to stay healthy, get regular check-ups and embrace the help offered during recovery.