For years GlenWood Park Retirement Village has offered rehabilitation services for people who needed to strengthen their bodies after an illness or injury. In some cases, their spirits become stronger, too.
Charles Arnold will celebrate his 80th birthday on April 4, but not long ago, the retired coal miner couldn’t imagine wanting to celebrate anything. He and his wife Nellie had endured a lot.
In 1997 their 38-year-old son died. Then a few years ago, their second son died at just 54 years old. Soon after that Nellie fell and had to have spinal cord surgery. Her injuries left her unable to walk and barely able to use her arms. Charles, who has always suffered from poor circulation, has had to undergo numerous surgeries on his arms, legs and heart. Then at home alone in his motorized scooter, he accidentally ran his foot under a kitchen cabinet. The severe injuries refused to heal, and his right leg had to be amputated below the knee.
Following his surgery in October, Charles came to GlenWood’s skilled nursing unit where Nellie had been since 2011 after spending five months in a Roanoke hospital. For the first two weeks, he rested and recovered in bed. Then he began working with therapists from Odyssey Rehabilitation to achieve his goal of returning home to Bluefield. Odyssey became GlenWood’s rehab provider in 2009 as West Virginia Therapy Services. The name was changed in 2012 as the company pursued plans to expand into other states.
“We did bed exercises the first couple of weeks so he wouldn’t lose the strength he had,” says Bryan Jollay, DPT. “Then he progressed to sitting on the side of the bed doing exercises that worked his abdominals and core muscles and also helped with balance.” Once Charles could go to GlenWood’s therapy gym, he started on the NuStep which uses resistance to strengthen the arms and legs and increase endurance. As his arms became stronger, Charles mastered the ability to transfer himself from his bed to his wheelchair using a sliding board. Then he progressed to the parallel bars, at first walking with two people assisting and then independently. Success on the parallel bars led to Charles using a walker even without his right leg. Then on January 31 his prosthetic leg arrived. “The first day with my new leg, I walked on the parallel bars forward and backward,” says Charles.
“He’s doing great,” according to Bryan. “He’s been a pleasure to work with. He’s been very motivated and people who are motivated do very well in therapy.”
“I like to do for myself. I was determined that I was going to walk again and go back home,” says Charles. He misses his companion there, Princess, a terrier/beagle mix that’s “as fast as greased lightning and doesn’t meet anybody she doesn’t like.” But a memorable event with his most important companion, Nellie, brings a smile to his face. On January 24 the couple celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary at GlenWood. Staff at the retirement community arranged a special meal in a private dining room with their favorite foods (chicken for Nellie and steak for Charles) along with candles, cake, and champagne glasses filled with sparkling grape juice.
“The people at GlenWood are like family,” according to Paula Johnson, the Arnold’s daughter, who calls from her home in Louisville several times a day to talk with her parents. She is amazed at the way her father has bonded with staff and residents. “Dad never socialized before. At home he just played with the dog and watched TV. At GlenWood he talks to people and he actually has a life, more of a life than he’s had in years.”
“I feel better than I’ve felt in a long time,” admits Charles. “I was so weak when I came but it wasn’t long until I was up on my own.” He gives credit to his therapy team for their role in his success. “They gave me motivation. They’re very professional but they joke around with you, too.” Visits and phone calls from Paula also prompted him to keep going. “My daughter is wonderful. She has motivated me every day.”
With his goal of going home within reach, Charles says he “would recommend GlenWood to anybody” who needs rehabilitation. He’s proud of the progress he achieved in four short months and thankful to the people who supported him. “If I hadn’t been here, I don’t believe I would have made it.”