Steven's Story*

Steven Peterson standing and wearing a mask in a hospital hallway.

Steven Peterson’s life revolves around helping people overcome obstacles.

As a corporate trainer, he teaches goal-setting and staying strong in the face of adversity. Steven believes in the power of positivity, which was tested when he experienced a medical crisis.

One morning in June, the father of one awoke to right-side weakness and slurred speech.  Steven knew he needed help. He called his girlfriend, Lilly, who rushed him to the hospital.

Tests revealed a stroke, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and Type II diabetes.

Three days later, Steven underwent surgery to place an arterial stent. The next day, he needed emergency placement on a ventilator. He cycled on and off its support before being reconnected at the end of June. A tracheostomy for airway support and feeding tube were also placed.

By July, Steven was awake, but unable to move anything except his eyes and left index finger.  His medical team introduced the possibility that he had become a quadriplegic.

Lilly, along with Steven’s son Conor, weren’t ready to accept that as reality.  They chose Select Specialty Hospital – Ann Arbor to provide Steven with additional healing and recovery time.

Steven needed to relearn everything – breathing, eating, speaking, walking and thinking. It was a daunting task, but one he was ready to embrace.

A physician-led team, including nurses and therapists, created a treatment plan for healing.

Respiratory therapy began working on Steven’s first goal – liberating from the ventilator.  Guided by a pulmonologist, the team stepped Steven through a series of lung-strengthening exercises. They also used monitored bursts of time off the ventilator, allowing his lungs to take on more work. Soon, the ventilator and airway support were removed and Steven returned to independent breathing.

From there, Steven began working extensively with physical, occupational and speech therapy to regain the ability to walk and care for daily needs. He was not, it turned out, going to remain fully paralyzed. Through balance, coordination and strength-building exercises, physical therapists helped Steven’s brain and body reconnect. He crossed a major milestone when, aided by occupational therapists, he showered and dressed himself.

“The rehab team pushed me,” he said. “They were great. There were some difficult days, but I kept at it, increasing my goals little by little until I succeeded.”

Speech therapists and dietitians worked together to retrain swallowing reflexes and resume regular meals.

Steven’s hospital stay was during the coronavirus pandemic when visitation restrictions were in place, but they eventually eased so Lilly and Steven’s parents were able to visit and cheer on each success.

Less than a month after arriving, Steven met all goals and was ready for the next phase of healing. He departed for an inpatient rehabilitation hospital to spend several more weeks rebuilding strength before returning home.

He hopes his journey has shown Conor that with determination, it’s possible to accomplish great things.

Every Patient Has a Story to Tell

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*Patient success stories from across our hospital network.