Madonna established the Chairman’s GOAL Awards in 1994 to honor patients for their outstanding courage and determination as they completed their rehabilitation, returned to their communities and gave back to others. The GOAL Award honorees represent the more than 6,000 patients Madonna serves annually.
Rehabilitation: Celebrate and Honor
The 2013 GOAL Award recipients are Trent Borland, Katie Felton, Garrett Girardin, Rodney Krogh and Owen Keenan
Trent Borland, a construction surveyor from Long Jack, Mo., enjoyed running and spending time with his wife and his two young daughters. He noticed weakness in his right arm and leg and thought it must be part of turning 40 years old, but he eventually saw his doctor, who suggested an MRI. The test revealed a large spinal cord tumor requiring immediate surgery.
Following the procedure, Trent experienced respiratory failure and was unable to move his body below his neck. He was dependent on a ventilator to breathe and required a feeding tube for nutrition. The formerly active man who cheered for his girls at their sporting events required complete medical care, 24/7.
When Trent arrived at Madonna, he struggled to envision his life dependent on a ventilator. However, with the strong support of his family and his Madonna care team, he regained hope as he learned how to use a head-array wheelchair for mobility and voice activated software to conduct his work via computer.
The diaphragm pacer completely changed Trent’s future in a very positive way. The device helps certain individuals who are ventilator dependent to breathe freely by activating the person’s diaphragm. Dr. Fiske successfully implanted the pacer at Saint Elizabeth Regional Medical Center and Trent worked hard with his Madonna team to rehabilitate from the vent and breathe independently. He even participated in community outings and gained enough strength to exercise on the FES bike and standing frame.
“Once I got the pacer, I felt so much more free,” said Trent. “I could do things that healthy people could do and not be hooked to the ventilator all the time. I can’t express enough how it changed me. I went from a point where I didn’t really want to live to a point where I’m grateful for being here. There’s so much I would have missed out on, being a father to my girls and husband to my wife. I’m just grateful for the new chance.”
Trent now works from home, cheers on his girls at sporting events and is busy with family and church activities.
In July of 2011, Katie Felton, a vibrant 26-year-old, was tired, losing weight and couldn’t think clearly. Her symptoms were misdiagnosed as a viral illness. Within three months, Katie tested positive for West Nile virus that progressed into a life-threatening lung condition, Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS).
Katie’s parents rushed their daughter from their hometown of Ord, Neb., to St. Francis Medical Center in Grand Island. Near death, Katie received the Last Rites from a Catholic priest before being transported to the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. The survival rate for ARDS patients is not high. “We’ll do everything we can,” the surgeons told Katie’s mother, Becky. Doctors saved Katie’s life, but after one month of rehabilitation at an Omaha facility, Katie was discharged while unable to walk and reliant on others for care.
Physically and emotionally drained, the formerly spunky girl from the Sandhills needed a miracle. A Facebook message from Madonna nurse Kristen Miles to Katie’s sister convinced the family to bring Katie to Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital. Within hours of her evaluation, Katie was admitted, and spent five months of intensive inpatient rehabilitation reclaiming her life.
“My team couldn’t have been a better fit,” said Katie of the staff that patiently taught her to sit, stand and eventually walk. “I hit the therapy jackpot and grew such special bonds with these people.” On Sept. 19, 2012, a determined Katie transferred to outpatient therapy and dug her heels into another year of therapy.
Despite significant nerve pain, Katie remained focused, encouraged by her Madonna care team, her incredible family and the league of friends sporting “Team Katie” shirts. The first time Katie walked, all the therapists stood clapping, many with tears in their eyes. “Nobody wants Katie to succeed more than Madonna does,” said Becky.
Katie continues to thrive in therapy back home in Ord. There is confidence in each step of her cowboy boots and the tone of her voice. Throughout her incredibly long journey, Katie’s trademark smile and positivity never once wavered. A remarkable young woman, Katie continues to inspire everyone she meets. “If I can beat the odds on this, I can do anything,” said Katie.
As a combat engineer, Garrett Girardin surveyed roads for hidden bombs while on tour in Iraq and Afghanistan. He made it through three tours of duty without a scratch and returned to Junction City, Kan., to rejoin his wife and son in December 2009.
Driving to work at the Fort Riley Army Base on Jan. 10, Garrett’s Jeep slid on the icy road, crashing down an embankment. Garrett sustained a severe traumatic brain injury and was transported to Stormont-Vail HealthCare in Topeka, Kan. The neurosurgeon told Garrett’s wife Carly that Garrett may not survive surgery. Carly replied to the doctor, “You don’t know my husband.”
Garrett arrived at Madonna barely out of a coma, with a feeding tube, totally unable to care for himself, move or talk. Garrett’s care team immediately began working with him, getting him out of bed and starting physical, occupational, speech and cognitive therapies. It was a long and difficult road to recovery.
“I was just like the koi (tattoo) on my arm,” said Garrett. “I had to swim upstream, overcoming all the obstacles.”
Garrett’s therapists used all of the technology available to help him regain his abilities: the Lokomat for walking, the FES bike for regaining his arm strength and the NuStep to help him strengthen his legs. Speech was the most difficult therapy for Garrett since his vocal chords were paralyzed in the accident and the brain injury affected his ability to verbalize his thoughts.
Garrett’s goal was to be able to walk down the aisle to renew his wedding vows with Carly on their 10th anniversary. It’s a goal he achieved, including being able to recite his vows. Garrett is now back at work on the base and loves to take care of things around the house.
“I’m here. I’m alive and keep on, keepin’ on. I feel like I was at rock bottom and the only place to go is up,” said Garrett.
Rod Krogh keeps God in the center of his life and credits the Creator with his miraculous recovery from a serious car accident. “It’s truly God’s work,” said Rod, 46, who survived numerous brain surgeries and became familiar with medical jargon like “craniotomy” and “bone flap.”
On Oct. 27, 2011, Rod was driving to pick up his wife, Dawn, and 4-year-old son, David, for a trick-or-treat outing in Lincoln, Neb. Rod was forced into oncoming traffic and his car collided with a cement truck. Ejected on impact and thrown 30 feet from the vehicle, Rod sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI). He spent 18 days in a medically induced coma at Bryan West Medical Center in Lincoln. Doctors told Dawn that 98 percent of people in a car accident of that severity don’t survive and of the two percent that do, only a fraction recover. Rod’s TBI would require numerous surgeries.
Dawn, a professor of music, softly sang to Rod, and offered continual support to the love of her life. Rod’s family, his friends and church family, offered daily prayers of support. His coma gradually lifted and on Nov. 10, Rod mouthed the words, “I love you,” to Dawn. His six-month rehabilitation journey began five days later at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital.
Rod’s goals included returning to his life roles as a Nebraska legislative aide and a loving husband and father. An intense daily regimen of therapies - speech, occupational and physical - were tailored to help Rod succeed. “I knew recovery would take time and having my own positive nature was necessary,” said Rod. The road to recovery was paved with small milestones, like Rod’s sense of humor resurfacing, along with his expertise as a wordsmith and problem solver. Rod progressed quickly, amazing his therapists and family. By Dec. 24, Rod received an early Christmas present when he discharged home in time to attend the holiday church service with his family.
A month later, Rod returned to work part-time at the Nebraska State Capitol. Through Madonna’s Rehabilitation Day and outpatient therapy programs, Rod refined his cognitive and communication skills that were compromised by the TBI. “Rod brings his strong work ethic, positive attitude and humble spirit to every therapy session,” said Gail Finsand, speech-language pathologist.
Nearly two years after his horrific accident, Rod has resumed his full-time career as head staffer for Sen. Bob Krist and enjoys a fulfilling family life. There are no traces of the once debilitating TBI. Rod is eternally grateful for his recovery. “God answered those prayers.”
On Easter Sunday, April 4, 2010, four-year-old Owen Keenan was playing in his front yard in Storm Lake, Iowa. The young boy with dark hair and chocolate brown eyes ran over to his cousin’s skateboard and sat down on it, zooming into the street and into the path of an oncoming car. The car struck Owen, causing a severe traumatic brain injury.
Owen was lifeflighted to the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha where the pediatric trauma team worked to stabilize him. He relied on a mechanical ventilator for breathing and medications to help reduce brain swelling. After three weeks of intensive care, Owen was stable enough to transfer to Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital.
“After we met the staff and toured Madonna, we knew this was the right place for Owen. We wanted him in a place with other kids and with a strong pediatric program,” said Karen, Owen’s mother.
In only a few days, Madonna respiratory therapists helped wean Owen from his ventilator, but he still faced a long recovery. Unable to focus, move his limbs, talk or sit upright, Owen was like a newborn. Sessions of physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech, physiatrist consults and daily nursing care became Owen’s new routine.
“We’re so glad Owen received this level of intense therapy. We liked the experienced staff, the technology and having doctors who were forward-thinking. Madonna is a very progressive place,” said Owen’s father, John.
With functional electrical stimulation therapy, Owen regained the use of his right hand. Madonna physiatrist, Dr. Adam Kafka, treated the tone in Owen’s thumb, forearm and calf with Botox, reducing spasticity and improving his flexibility. And, Owen’s therapy team helped him improve his walking ability using the Lokomat, a robotic rehabilitation treadmill.
Three years after his injuries, Owen is now a busy grade-schooler who loves to help his parents at their convenience store and play with his brother and sister. He’s won medals for Boy Scout events, plays basketball and enjoys drawing and other art projects.