John Muench

Retired life was good for John Muench and his wife, Mary Jo. They filled their days with camping, hiking, working in the yard, and spending time with their large extended family.

Then one day, John noticed increasing abdominal pain and a slight weakness in his legs. The pain became unbearable over the next couple of days, and John struggled even to walk. Mary Jo took John to the ER, where he was diagnosed with a spinal cord infarction.

John planned to transfer to Gateway Rehabilitation Hospital to prepare for a safe return home. But while Gateway was working on getting insurance approval for John’s rehab stay, he tested positive for COVID-19.

The positive test posed a dilemma. John couldn’t transfer to Gateway while COIVD-positive, but he needed to begin rehab. Fortunately, Gateway and St. Elizabeth have a great partnership and teamed up for a solution. John first transferred to an isolation unit at St. Elizabeth’s skilled nursing facility, where he could safely begin his rehabilitation journey. Then, after only a couple of days, John could safely transfer to Gateway for more intensive neurorehabilitation.

During his stay at Gateway, John made substantial progress. He credited the support of his family as the most significant influence on his improvement. Mary Jo even made up “Team John” t-shirts for the family to show their support.

John also expressed his thanks to the medical team at Gateway, specifically his physical therapist, Melissa Burchett, and his occupational therapists, Jenni Schiebelhuth and Jessy Mairose. He credits Melissa, Jenni, and Jessy for helping him achieve his goal of returning safely home to Mary Jo.

The family also wanted to thank the community partners that helped them on this journey. In particular, they want to thank Zack Lawson of Rehab Medical for securing a custom wheelchair for John that meets his needs for mobility at home and in the community.

John and Mary Jo chose Gateway Rehabilitation Hospital for his recovery because of the hospital’s spinal cord injury program. It’s a decision with which they’re quite happy. Under the guidance of Gateway’s CARF accredited staff and therapy team, John achieved significant gains with bed mobility, sitting balance, and transfers. Additionally, Mary Jo received training on how to best help John transfer in and out of the car.

John looks forward to returning home to his own bed and the love and support of “Team John” and hopes to return to camping with his wife one day.