It was spring of 1990. Steve, a successful appeals lawyer, loving father and husband had an ideal life … until he woke up in the medical intensive care unit at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor with no recollection of how he got there.
“I couldn’t move my arms or legs. I couldn’t talk because of the ventilator. I could only move my head back and forth and blink my eyes,” Steve remembers.
Days earlier, Steve thought he was a battling a bad cold before leaving on a family vacation to Florida, but it turned out to be something much more serious. Steve suffered from haemophilus influenza, which left untreated developed into bacterial pneumonia and eventually adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). ARDS is a lung condition that lowers oxygen levels in the blood resulting in body organ failure due to the lack of oxygen rich blood being produced.
The blood wasn’t circulating through Steve’s body, which caused him to lose all of his fingers on both hands except for part of his thumbs, his right leg was amputated at the knee and he suffered nerve damage in his left leg.
“I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t lift my arms. I couldn’t roll over in bed. I was like a baby. I had to learn how to do everything all over. I had to reconnect with my body and figure out how to use it.”
Steve spent two months in a coma and more than eight months in the hospital. He underwent ten weeks of inpatient physical therapy and about two years of outpatient therapy.
It took a lot of hard work, but with the help of prosthetics and the physical therapy and rehabilitation team at St. Joe’s, Steve is now able to enjoy most of the same activities he did before he became sick.
“I went from not being able to move at all to walking on my own, driving, golfing. I can even play the piano again, which is pretty amazing considering I don’t have any fingers on either hand,” said Steve. “I remember the hand therapist just working and kneading my remaining joints on my hands and I was thinking, What’s the point?, but now I know it made all the difference.”
It was the hard work and the strong relationships Steve built with his physical therapists that helped him to regain function of his body. Now, 18 years later, Steve is working with his therapists again, but this time it’s to get equipment to support a program he runs with the help of the Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation, educating children on living with a disability.
“When I came back to St. Joe’s 18 years later and found out that my physical therapist, occupational therapist and hand therapist were all still working here I thought, wow that really says something about St. Joe’s and the kind of work and healing environment they have created.”
Despite experiencing a devastating illness, Steve credits his success to his positive attitude and the excellent care he received at St. Joe’s.