Tom Fisher has a love for blue skies and the open road. It’s a good combination for a truck driver. On Nov. 22, 2008, Tom’s life took a curve when he suffered a debilitating stroke.
Tom, 61, of Lincoln, Neb., was never sick. His employer required yearly physicals and Tom always passed with flying colors. The stroke hit him completely by surprise.
Tom had just eaten dinner and went to refill his glass when, as Tom recalls, he “kissed the carpet.” Following a short hospital stay at BryanLGH Medical Center, Tom arrived at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital slumped in a wheelchair, unable to walk, talk or feed himself.
Brenda Henderson, Tom’s daughter, worked with her father and his Madonna team to create realistic therapy goals. “He was extremely frustrated with not being able to do things independently,” said Brenda.
The team quickly weaned Tom from the feeding tube and his strength increased. “I promised myself I’d walk out of here and that I’d be back up in my truck again,” said Tom.
His days filled with speech, physical and occupational therapy to help recover the functions the stroke had robbed from Tom. Through Tom’s determination, he would slowly transition from inpatient to outpatient therapy. On March 27, Tom endured a minor setback when he suffered another small stroke. Undeterred, Tom bounced back and soon joined Madonna’s Rehab Day Program.
“In Rehab Day, we got to know so many other families,” said Brenda. “Those families and the therapists became our extended family,” added Brenda.
Virginia Schweitzer, occupational therapist, found Tom was always willing to learn new techniques to try at home. “He worked so hard and never lost sight of the goal of climbing back into his truck,” recalled Virginia.
Tom also participated in the Independent Living Skills (ILS) group. He appreciated being able to hone his skills in a community setting. A highlight was touring Memorial Stadium with the ILS group and sitting in the announcer’s booth.
On May 6, Tom Fisher tackled the final goal as his feet found their way up the steps of his son-in-law’s tractor-trailer. As he eased into the passenger seat, a big smile broke out on Tom’s face.
Tom realizes he won’t be behind the wheel again, but simply being able to make short runs with fellow truckers in the future will suffice. “We’re thankful Madonna got Dad back on his feet enjoying life again,” said Brenda.