Greeting guests as he strolls amid linen-covered tables, Hubert Smith commands the room. His Motley Crew lunch, a long-standing popular community gathering, draws a crowd every month, and this one is no exception.
You would never know his secret if he chose not to share it. Smith, 65, is recovering from a stroke.
“I can put my cane away and no one can tell,” Smith says.
Smith was hospitalized for 10 days in December 2018 as doctors tried to locate the clot that was causing the stroke. The stroke had time to take a toll on his body and mind.
Lying in the hospital bed, Smith repeatedly strained to touch the fingers on his left hand to his thumb, one at a time. It gave him hope that someday he might enjoy quality of life again.
Rather than being discharged to an skilled nursing facility, his doctor believed Smith would be a good candidate for Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center. PNRC is located at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center and is part of Covenant Health’s stroke hospital network.
Comprehensive stroke rehabilitation at PNRC includes physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, rehab psychologists, nursing staff, case managers, recreation therapists and physiatrists (physicians who specialize in rehabilitation). Melanie DeWitt, a PNRC certified brain injury specialist and physical therapist, says treatment is an active process with both patient and family involved in goal setting, therapy and education.
“We look at the body as a whole and where the missing pieces are, and then we work on getting those pieces back together,” DeWitt says. “Whether it’s lost range of motion or loss of active movement; whether it’s weakness, loss of coordination, loss of motor control or balance skills.”
Smith spent two weeks at PNRC and then transitioned to regular appointments in the outpatient therapy center.
“I knew I had to put my faith in somebody on this earth,” Smith says. “I have faith in these people, I have a lot of faith in God, and that’s been enough for me.”
With hard work, a good attitude and the skill of therapists at PNRC, Smith’s improvement has been dramatic. He has gone from a hospital bed to a wheelchair and from a wheelchair to going anywhere he wants with only a cane for help.
For DeWitt, seeing a patient like Smith is the payoff for a life invested in serving others.
“That’s why I chose this profession,” DeWitt says. “I’m not going to change the world, but I can impact one person at a time with my work.”