John's Story*

John standing with his prosthetics next to his therapist wearing a mask.

John Esposito Jr., 31, enjoyed an active life – hiking and practicing Muay Thai. That all changed when a sudden accident led to the amputation of both of his legs.

John, a roadway worker, was hit by a car, pinning him to construction equipment. His left leg was severed. Complicating matters, while being transported by helicopter to the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital trauma center, John went into cardiac arrest. Emergency personnel restored his heartbeat with defibrillation. Emergency surgeries, including skin grafts, were performed to close his wounds. The extent of John’s injuries meant that his right leg would also need to be amputated above the knee.

Once stabilized, John and his family knew intensive rehabilitation was the next step in his recovery. After three weeks in the hospital, he transferred to Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation – West Orange. “I was told that Kessler was the best,” he said.

Unable to move or walk independently, his goals upon admission were clear: “To be able to get out of bed and learn to do things on my own again.” His physician-led team of rehabilitation nurses, limb loss specialists, physical and occupational therapists developed a personalized treatment plan to help him regain his independence.

Doctors monitored John’s medical needs, while his nurses helped manage his medications and worked with him on inspecting, dressing and wrapping his wounds to promote healing.

His physical and occupational therapists focused on improving his upper body strength to help him transfer safely to and from a bed into a wheelchair. To increase his mobility, John participated in wheelchair propulsion exercises, including going up and down curbs and ramps and “popping wheelies.” They also taught him strategies to help perform daily activities safely and efficiently, including bathing, dressing and grooming.

After three weeks at Kessler, he was able to get in and out of bed and move about independently using a wheelchair. He was discharged home and had another skin graft surgery. As his limbs healed and his strength returned, he was fitted for foreshortened prosthetic legs or “stubbies.”

About four months later, John came back to Kessler to complete prosthetic training, where physical therapy was crucial in getting him up and moving. Focusing on improving his balance and endurance, his therapists provided him with the exercises, techniques and education that enabled him to relearn to walk, go up and down stairs and complete activities safely and confidently.

With his rapid improvement, his therapists cleared John to have “full leg” prosthetics. When his new prosthetic knees unlocked, allowing them to swing freely, John knew he had reached a turning point in his recovery. He went from walking with the aid of the LiteGait body-weight support system to standing with crutches and walking with a rolling walker.

John’s family and friends were a constant source of support throughout his rehabilitation journey. He spoke with them over video calls and his father participated in Kessler’s family education program to help him understand limb loss, along with other ideas, resources and training to adjust to everyday life.

After a month in prosthetic training, John was discharged home. He was looking forward to spending time with his family and friends and planned to continue regaining his independence at an outpatient facility.

Reflecting his generous spirit, John returned to Kessler six months later to provide peer support to another young amputee.

Asked what he learned about himself during his rehabilitation journey, John’s humorous side was revealed: “That it would be possible for me to walk at 6’ tall again.”

Every Patient Has a Story to Tell

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*Patient success stories from across our hospital network.