Yiotis' story

Yiotis standing in front of his hospital room door wearing a mask.

A busy, full-time home technology installer, Yiotis Pallis continued to make his in-home visits despite having difficulty breathing. After five days of persistent symptoms, however, he and his wife tested for COVID-19.

The test came back positive.

Following the positive test, Yiotis was admitted to Hackensack University Medical Center, where a chest x-ray confirmed he had pneumonia. His health deteriorated rapidly, with his breathing becoming increasingly difficult, necessitating the use of a ventilator. After a six-week hospitalization, the Cyprus native stabilized, but the extended stay left him debilitated, making it impossible for him to stand, walk, or even leave his bed unassisted. "I lost about 20 pounds and felt very weak," he recounted.

Yiotis would need specialized care to get back on his feet. Relying on his mother’s experience, he chose Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation – Saddle Brook to continue his recovery. “I chose Kessler because my mother came here years ago and she had a great experience. Kessler was my first choice,” he explained. According to Yiotis, this was a key turning point in his recovery. “When I got accepted into rehabilitation at Kessler … I knew I had more time to recover.”

Once transferred, his physician-led team of rehabilitation nurses, physical and occupational therapists and other clinicians created a treatment plan to help him reach his goals. “My goals were to get the oxygen off, get back to my life and get back to work,” recalled Yiotis.

In physical therapy, he worked relentlessly to rebuild his strength, balance and mobility. Because of the lung damage, he still required high-flow oxygen, and physical exertion left him breathless, but he remained undeterred. He progressed from a wheelchair to a rolling walker and then to walking unassisted. Yiotis recalled the critical moment in his rehabilitation journey when he “walked seven minutes without oxygen.”

Yiotis worked with his occupational therapists on exercises to improve his breathing and learned new strategies to do everyday tasks, including dressing, bathing and getting in and out of bed safely.

The positive relationship he developed with his care team was key to his recovery progress. “The therapists did their best, they got me walking, they pushed me and they were easygoing,” he shared.

He also gained a new perspective on his personal relationships: “This experience put everything into perspective. I had a lot of time to think and realized I need to make changes in my life to better relationships with my family.”

Indeed, his 21-year-old twin daughters attended Kessler’s care partner training and were prepared to assist their father with a safe return home.

After ten days of intensive rehabilitation, Yiotis was prepared to go home. He planned to continue to gain strength and independence through Kessler outpatient therapy.

To other individuals and their families facing challenges like his, Yiotis advises, “Listen to the therapists and push yourself … you have to want to get well.”