When Vicki Hark’s husband, Timothy, was admitted to Hoeger House rehabilitation center in Olathe, she didn’t know if he would recover from the serious illnesses he was battling.
Timothy was rushed by ambulance to the emergency room in early April where he was diagnosed with MRSA and bacterial meningitis. He was given heavy antibiotics, put on a ventilator and later suffered a series of strokes.
After a few weeks in the hospital, Timothy’s infections were under control, but he was still unable to speak or move his arms. With visitor restrictions in place, Vicki was initially unable to visit Timothy, but she was now asked to come because his health was drastically declining.
“I went up there and was holding his hand and talking to him. He looked like he wanted to burst just to talk to me,” says Vicki.
She knew the doctor had talked about moving Timothy to hospice and doing comfort care until he passed away. But Vicki had a feeling Timothy would converse with her if he could, so she asked him to blink if his answer was yes. He blinked furiously while she talked to him. That’s when Vicki told health care workers that Timothy’s mind was still functioning.
“That’s when we got permission to move him to Hoeger House,” she says.
A family friend had recommended Hoeger House and Vicki felt it was the right choice after a chance meeting in the hospital waiting room.
She met a hospital employee who was disinfecting the furniture and tables. He ended up sharing his life story and how his faith in God and the support of his family were the reasons he was alive after experiencing health issues.
“I said, ‘OK, God, I got it, I got the message.’ That was his way of letting me know, you’re doing the right thing and sending Timothy to the right place,” says Vicki. “God helped me choose Hoeger House and I left him in the hands of angels.”
When Timothy transferred to Hoeger House in early May, Vicki says he couldn’t open his eyes, walk or talk. A feeding tube was in place since he couldn’t eat, drink or swallow.
Allie Karas Finley, the administrator at Hoeger House, says she and her team were unsure if Timothy was going to recover.
“That one was definitely a special case,” says Allie. “We had never really had anyone like him.”
But the longer Timothy received physical, occupational and speech therapy, the more his health started improving. Staff members were able to use a lift to bring him from his bed to a chair and he even progressed enough to converse with them.
A strong resolve
Timothy turned 75 while at Hoeger House. Prior to his birthday, the team had worked with him on swallowing, which allowed him to have cake to celebrate.
By that time, he was using a wheelchair and could push himself around his room. Vicki says she and the family were surprised and proud of him as they watched him through the window during his party.
Timothy told his family in a raspy voice over the phone, “They said I’d never talk so when somebody says I’ll never walk, don’t underestimate me.”
As his recovery progressed, Vicki continued to send updates about his progress to family and friends. It was remarkable, considering that at one point she never thought she’d hear his voice again.
“Every day was comforting because I could talk to people and get the updates I needed to hear and know that he was safe,” Vicki says. “We had a prayer chain and everybody was praying. Truthfully, it was in God’s hands.”
Vicki feels the key to Timothy’s recovery was the people.
“He was content, he had a connection. All those things together helped him progress,” she says. They worked with him at the level they thought he was ready to work at. Nobody ever gave up on him.”
Timothy was able to go home on Sept. 5. Vicki says no one ever dreamed he would come home being able to use a walker, but he did.
“The amazing therapy team and nursing staff we have make this kind of outcome a possibility,” says Allie. “We have a lot of long-term staff that are very dedicated to their work.”
Now that Timothy is home, he wears an emergency alert pendant. Vicki prepares food for him to microwave for lunch while she’s at work and a next-door neighbor is home if an urgent need arises.
“We’re very blessed that the people at Hoeger House were there,” she says. “I can’t thank them enough for what they did and I hope they realize how special they are. I’m very grateful to have my husband back.”