Born with a congenital birth defect, two of Leonard Pielli’s vertebrae were fused together.
Now 71, the defect had taken its toll. Without surgery, his doctor said the pressure and nerve damage would soon cause paralysis. Something went terribly wrong during the surgery in March 2010, says Pielli. The site filled with fluid, putting pressure on the neck and spinal cord. It left him paralyzed from the neck down.
Pielli was transferred to St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Hospital to start the recovery process. “From that time, I cannot say enough about St. Luke’s Rehab,” said Pielli. “The nurses and staff were fantastic. They took super-good care of me.”
As a former EMT, Pielli said he admires the therapy and nursing staff for their dedication and ability to help a patient progress. “I was able to walk out of the hospital after a month,” Pielli said, explaining that his goal was to walk his grand-daughter down the aisle at her wedding two months after his paralyzing surgery. “That was incentive for me,” he says with his voice breaking with emotion.
It took a lot of hard work, but Pielli says the therapists continually encouraged him and showed him he could accomplish so much more than he thought possible. “Everyday was a milestone,” Pielli said. “The therapists gave me the tools to work with. Many times I didn’t’ think I could do what I did. They assured me I could and together we worked extra hard. I can’t say enough about them.”
Pielli’s positive experience at St. Luke’s was more than just successful therapy. “I wanted to come home, but I had been there a month and had made friends and progress,” Pielli said.
One day when Pielli was feeling down, he recalls how his St. Luke’s nurse arranged with his wife to bring in his dachshund puppy, Gus. “My wife surprised me by bringing him to St. Luke’s and letting me visit with him in the chapel,” said Pielli.
Pielli thanks the staff at St. Luke’s for helping make the simple pleasures in life possible. “Without their guidance, knowledge and expertise, there is no way I could be where I am today. They are just super fine people.”