David Volesky was at home, drinking coffee and watching a favorite TV show when he felt dizzy.
Alarmed, the 65-year-old called his brother, Richard, who drove over immediately. Upon arrival, he recognized David was in distress and called 911.
By the time the ambulance pulled into the local hospital, David’s face was drooping and his speech slurred. Scans revealed a brain bleed and stroke. The next day, he underwent surgery to remove a portion of skull, easing internal pressure. Afterward, he contracted pneumonia and complications flared. David needed intravenous antibiotics, a chest tube to reduce fluid build-up, tracheostomy for airway support and feeding tube.
After a month in intensive care, he stabilized and transferred to Select Specialty Hospital - Milwaukee St. Francis.
A physician-led team of nurses, therapists and dietitians developed an individualized treatment plan for David.
Respiratory therapists collaborated with physicians to gradually reduce ventilator settings, allowing his lungs to work independently. They led breathing and chest exercises to increase stamina. After 11 days, David liberated and transitioned to a special collar. Speech and respiratory therapists coordinated to fit it with a valve that allowed more normal speech.
With visitors prohibited due to the pandemic, speaking to others was a significant milestone.
“Being able to talk to my family and hearing their encouraging words on the phone was so beneficial for me,” he said.
Physical and occupational therapists led David through arm, leg, hand and core exercises. They practiced standing and transitioning to a chair. Occupational therapists retrained him on personal care skills, such as grooming and eating.
Speech therapists continued working on mouth, tongue and jaw exercises to rebuild throat muscles. When he could safely swallow food, the feeding tube was removed and dietitians stepped in with a meal plan calibrated to provide healing nutrients and appropriate textures.
After a month, David was ready for the next stage of recovery. He departed for an inpatient rehabilitation hospital to continue building endurance and stability before returning home.
“I missed my great-niece Clara’s first Holy Communion,” David said. “I have a present wrapped that I can’t wait to give her! I can’t wait to be back in my house, sip my coffee and watch some national news.”