Patient Story: “Learning To Walk Again”

| Patient Stories
Learning to walk

“I just wasn’t feeling well and was popping Tums [antacids] like they were going of style,” remembers John Allen of Wardsboro.   What John didn’t realize was that he had suffered a massive heart attack.   John had never had any heart problems, never had high blood pressure.  Always reluctant togo to a doctor, John just rested at home.  But, two weeks later, he could no longer get out of bed and he couldn’t feel his toes.

John’s family brought him to Grace Cottage Hospital’s Emergency Department. “They saved my life,” says John.

John was seen by Warren Montgomery, PA, who did a cardiac workup and made a quick decision to call the DHART (Dartmouth Hitchcock Advanced Response Team) helicopter.  John does not remember the helicopter to ride to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC).   He next remembers waking up in the Intensive Care Unit at DHMC, where doctors told him that he had suffered a massive heart attack.   He also was diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis (a blood clot in a deep vein) in his left leg.  And more bad news followed—his left leg needed to be amputated from above the knee.   “When they told me the leg had to come off, I almost went ballistic,” recalls John.  “I thought that was the end of everything, but it really wasn’t.  I fought back.”

After surgery at DHMC to remove his leg, John spent two weeks at Mt. Ascutney Hospital’s Rehab Center and was discharged in a wheel chair.  But, as John recalls, “I told my wife Joanne, ‘I am not living in this chair for the rest of my life.’”  John began a home rehabilitation program, and when that ended, he began therapy at Grace Cottage Outpatient Rehabilitation.

John’s rehab team—Physical Therapist Patty Winter and Physical Therapy Assistant Rebecca Wilkins—started working with John twice a week.  As John explains, “I had to learn how to walk again.” As a retired carpenter, “I could tell you how to build something, but I can’t tell you how to walk again.”

John’s therapy program became more challenging as he made progress.  In the beginning, the exercises were simple—things like moving his feet or trying to balance on one foot.  He then began work on the parallel bars.   Later, Patty moved him to the trampoline to work on his balance.   John admits that it has been hard work.  But, John says, “I can’t live like I am dying. If I’m breathing, I’m going to walk.  Patty and Rebecca understand that. They both know how badly I want to walk. Patty and Rebecca have brought me from nothing to going out and hitting some golf balls.”

At Grace Cottage Rehab, John says, “you are not a number here.  Everyone knows you by name as a person.  It feels very homey and comfortable.  Professionalism is outstanding.  Friendliness is outstanding.  They just do a fantastic job.”