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Twenty-three-year-old Jillian was vacationing in Mexico when she slipped off a third-floor balcony, becoming permanently paralyzed.
As a Gaylord inpatient she learned to adjust to her new reality and credits her therapist, Tim, for pushing her farther than she thought she could go.
As an outpatient, Jillian benefited both physically and mentally from the Ekso Bionics wearable exoskeleton that enabled her to stand and walk once more. She noted that being able to just stand up again and have a face-to-face conversation with people was the “best feeling ever”.
Jillian fully immersed herself in the Gaylord Sports Association, excelling at adaptive rock climbing, hand cycling, and archery. Her “Think Possible” spirit was even featured in People Magazine and on international television for her role as Featured Adaptive Athlete in the 2018 Gaylord Gauntlet.
Today, Jillian is living her best life. She has her own apartment, drives to work, enjoys dating and hanging out with friends, and travels across the U.S. participating in extreme adventure races.
“I’m happier than I’ve ever been before!” she claims.
Sonia was thrilled to embark on a “lifetime-dream-of-a-trip” to Ghana. Soon after arriving overwhelming fatigue and a mounting fever overtook her, the first signs of a fast-moving and rare autoimmune disease wreaking damage on her nervous system.
Within hours, Sonia’s body became paralyzed from her bottom up and she stopped breathing. Efforts to intubate her with a locked jaw caused extensive damage that would leave her in excruciating pain for months to come.
Sonia was diagnosed with ADEM, a disease similar to Guillain Barré syndrome that attacks the nerves in the brain and spinal cord. Sonia lay in the ICU for ten days, paralyzed from head to toe, able to move only her eyes.
Once stabilized, she was flown back to the US and remained at Yale ICU for a month. Her husband began researching long-term rehabilitation hospitals in preparation for her discharge. Gaylord came out on top, she said, because it was one of the very few willing to admit her on a ventilator and had on-campus family guest facilities for her out-of-area parents.
Sonia was grateful to never have to spend a night alone at Gaylord and claims that having family near made all the difference in her recovery. She also was impressed with Gaylord’s patient-focused approach to caring for the whole person.
“When I first came to Gaylord, they greeted me not like just any other patient, but as a person who needed to get better,” she commented.
“Gaylord has been such a great place, I didn’t want to leave,” she said. “But I’m feeling empowered and ready to get back to my regular life.”
Decades before she became a pulmonologist and a critical care physician, Dr. Megan Panico was a 17-year-old patient at Gaylord Specialty Healthcare, the very hospital where she would be named Medical Director and Critical Care Specialist two decades later.
As a teen she was involved in a severe car accident that caused a traumatic brain injury and left her unable to walk or move on one side of her body. She spent three months as a Gaylord inpatient for intensive therapy.
It was the care she received at Gaylord that inspired her to first become a physical therapist, and later, attend medical school and become a pulmonologist.
“My Gaylord experience ultimately shaped my understanding of what patient-focused care really means,” she said.
Panico also served as a front-line pulmonologist in a local acute care hospital ICU at the height of COVID and was an early observer of how the disease ravaged the sickest patients. “I knew that my patients would need the kind of extensive post-acute rehabilitation that only Gaylord can offer. It just can’t be provided anywhere else,” she said.
“Everyone on Gaylord’s team, from housekeeping, to nursing, to food and nutrition, stepped up during COVID. It wasn’t ‘we can’t do this’ but ‘let’s do this’. Having the unique opportunity to follow my patients from the point of listening to their families saying their goodbyes in the ICU to watching them walk out of Gaylord’s doors weeks later has been nothing short of amazing".
Nineteen-year-old Garrett went from being a lacrosse captain and four-year varsity hockey player in high school to a freshman in college who could no longer speak or move.
Garrett was not feeling well when he came home from a hockey game and went to bed early. The next morning, his mother discovered him half off his bed and was unable to wake him. He was rushed to the hospital where the doctors believed it was encephalitis caused by a hockey blow in a game the night before. What they discovered three days later was the blow resulted in a massive brain stem stroke leaving him practically paralyzed.
Gaylord worked with Garrett as an elite athlete and was able to tap into his competitive spirit and ability to respond well to coaching. After two months of intensive therapy, Garrett walked out of Gaylord.
Today Garrett volunteers as a peer mentor at Gaylord, is studying psychology in college, plays in the annual Gaylord Golf Classic with many of his former caregivers, and can often be found back in his favorite place: the ice rink.
Sonja LaBarbera was appointed the Chief Executive Officer and President of Gaylord Specialty Healthcare in January 2019. She is the first clinician to achieve this rank in nearly forty years.
With 25 years in the healthcare industry, Ms. LaBarbera is experienced in clinical operations, strategic planning, business development, leadership development and philanthropy. She works with healthcare systems, academic and research institutions to foster collaborative efforts to support superior patient outcomes. Under her vision, LaBarbera launched the Milne Institute for Healthcare Innovation in October 2020. The Milne Institute for Healthcare Innovation serves as the anchor for the Center for Applied Technology and Gaylord’s Center for Research and Innovation. These two centers work strategically to achieve scientific and therapeutic breakthroughs by fostering creative, multidisciplinary, and innovative work with physicians, nurses, therapists, and corporations and foundations. Both centers offer exponential growth in work that holds promise for patient recovery.
Ms. LaBarbera earned her Master of Science in Organizational Leadership from Quinnipiac University, and her Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology from State University of New York at Fredonia. Ms. LaBarbera was recently named to the Hartford Business Journal 2020 list of Power 25 in Healthcare. She is also the recipient of the 2020 New Haven Biz Women Who Mean Business award and was named the 2019 Quinnipiac Chamber Woman of the Year.
Dr. Alyse Sicklick graduated from Boston University School of Medicine. She completed her residency in physical medicine and rehabilitation at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center (now known as NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center). She is Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and Active Referring Physician in the Department of Orthopedics & Rehabilitation at Yale School of Medicine. She is board certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation (physiatry) and sub-specialty certified in brain injury medicine. She serves as the medical director for Gaylord’s Inpatient Rehabilitation Division, which is accredited by the International Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF).
Dr. David Rosenblum graduated summa cum laude from the University of Buffalo School of Medicine (now known as the University of Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences). He completed his residency in physical medicine and rehabilitation at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center (now known as NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center). He is medical director for Gaylord’s Milne Institute for Healthcare Innovation, which offers cutting-edge research, technology and innovation in rehabilitation. He also serves as director of Gaylord’s Spinal Cord Injury Program, which is a partner site in the Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Model System, one of only 14 centers in the nation. He is board certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation (physiatry) and sub-specialty certified in spinal cord medicine and brain injury medicine. He is Associate Clinical Professor in the departments of Neurology as well as Orthopedics & Rehabilitation at Yale School of Medicine.
A dynamic leader, Katie Joly has carefully nurtured and cultivated the Gaylord Sports Association to become Connecticut’s largest - and one of the Nation’s most widely recognized - adaptive sports program. She encourages others to remember that the only limitations in life are the ones we set for ourselves. She believes that everyone, regardless of their ability level, should have the opportunity to enjoy sports and recreational activities.
Travels & Traditions with Burt Wolf is a classic travel journal. A record of Burt's search for information about the world and how we fit into it. Burt travels to the source of each story, trying to find the connections between our history and what is happening today. What he discovers can improve our lives and our understanding of the world around us. And of course, there is always Burt's slightly irreverent sense of humor.