It was the last week of March, 2020, and New York was in lockdown due to spreading COVID-19 pandemic. William Tesi, an essential worker in charge of Con Edison’s fleet, remained on the job to ensure critical utility services were maintained. The 57-year old husband and father, who’s known for his mouth-watering clambakes, first noticed a low-grade fever. Without other symptoms, he wasn’t tested for the virus. He fought off the fever but felt progressively worse. His my wife called for an ambulance and William was taken to Huntington Hospital in Long Island, diagnosed with COVID-19 and intubated.
“I was in a coma for 37 days and didn’t remember anything of it when I woke up.” As a result of his long hospitalization and immobility, “I lost a lot of muscle mass. I couldn’t stand or walk. I really couldn’t do anything besides lie in bed.”
William’s family chose Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation for the next step in his recovery. “My daughter did some research and felt Kessler was the right place for me,” he said. His physician-led team of rehabilitation nurses, therapists and other specialists focused on William’s goals to “work myself back to where I was ... and be able to serve up my famous clambake,” tailoring his treatment plan to rebuild his strength and endurance.
Steadily he made gains. “The rehab team did a really great job at starting small, putting the building blocks in place to help me be able to walk again. Every day, there was another progression.” A turning point came “the first time I was able to swing my legs up onto the bed by myself.” Another, was when he first stood up with a walker. “Once I did it, it was a push to do the next thing and the next.”
William describes his Kessler experience as very positive. “The nursing staff was very responsive and friendly. Therapists were social and fun to work with.” He called out the dexterity activities with his occupational therapist that were unexpected but “enjoyable – I welcomed it,” adding that “the therapy team pushes you to do as much as you can, [but only] to a point where I don’t feel overwhelmed.”
William’s family also played a huge role in his getting back on his feet. “They’ve been incredible. Although visitation was limited due to the pandemic, we were able to FaceTime every day. They encouraged me, kept me positive and lifted my spirits when I felt exhausted.”
William admits rehab takes a bit of humility. “All the things that we take for granted, I had to relearn to do. It makes you appreciate the little things.”
He advises having the right perspective. “You’re going to have good and bad days. Keep pushing yourself to make improvements. It’s a lot of work, but there is an ultimate payoff.”
William plans to continue with outpatient rehabilitation at home. “A couple weeks ago, if I dropped something, I wasn’t able to pick it up. Now I can. I’m getting closer to being able to do all those little things again... and I can’t wait to host a clambake.”