Victor's story

Victor Berry smiles with two of his therapists by his side.

Victor D. Berry, a 68-year-old retiree from Philadelphia, enjoyed spending his time golfing, tending to his garden and visiting his grandchildren. But life took an unexpected turn for Victor when he woke up one morning to a new reality. As he tried to turn off his alarm, Victor fell out of bed. His wife, Lisa, noticed immediately that he was slurring his words. He was unable to get up from the floor so his wife called for an ambulance.

Victor was rushed to UPMC Harrisburg emergency department, where tests revealed he had suffered a stroke on the left side of his brain. With right-sided weakness making it nearly impossible for him to stand, speak clearly or perform everyday tasks, it was clear that his path to recovery would be challenging.  

Once he was medically stable, his physicians recommended an intensive inpatient rehabilitation program to help him regain his mobility and independence. Determined to return to the activities he loved, Victor chose Helen M. Simpson Rehabilitation Hospital for his rehabilitation journey.

Upon admission, Victor faced a multitude of challenges. Weakness in his right arm and leg, difficulty speaking and impaired cognitive functions presented significant hurdles. However, the physician-led team at Helen M. Simpson Rehabilitation Hospital immediately got to work, tailoring a comprehensive rehabilitation plan to address Victor's unique needs.

Physical therapy played a crucial role in Victor's recovery. He initially required assistance to stand and walk even short distances. Through specialized exercises and the use of innovative technologies like the exoskeleton, a wearable robotic device, and an overhead bodyweight support harness system, Victor made significant progress. He went from taking just a few steps with assistance to walking over 100 feet with a four-pointed cane.

Occupational therapists focused on his self-care abilities, helping Victor regain his independence for activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing and grooming. Electrical stimulation and neuromuscular methods were employed during therapy sessions to strengthen his weakened arm, crucial for his desire to return to hobbies like golf.

Speech therapy played a pivotal role in enhancing Victor's speech clarity, utilizing the Iowa Oral Performance Instrument (IOPI), which measures tongue and lip strength and endurance to improve his intelligibility. His commitment to oral motor exercises paid off, and he made substantial qualitative gains.

Throughout his rehabilitation journey, Victor also participated in a research study that allowed him to work on regaining mobility in his right hand through mental imagery tasks, aligning with his interests and goals.

Reflecting on his overall experience, Victor praised the rehabilitation team as "essential" and "remarkable." He felt their professionalism and encouragement propelled him toward his goals, making the seemingly impossible feel achievable.

Lisa actively participated in family training, recognizing the importance of her role in his recovery. Victor plans to continue gaining strength through outpatient therapy following his discharge from Helen M. Simpson Rehabilitation Hospital.

He shared this insight for fellow patients and their families: "Put in the hard work and it will get better." 

Victor also emphasized the importance of believing in the rehabilitation process, concluding that he came in here “in the dark” and now he “can see the light.”