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Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals

Former pastor finds hope and healing at Madonna

October 06, 2021

In the comfort and quiet of Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals’ chapel, Bill Peterson felt at peace while playing the piano. The music not only helped Bill reflect on life, but it also served as a recreational therapy session for the stroke survivor and former pastor.

Bill worked in health care administration for several years before answering the call to become a pastor in 2010. Then, after a decade of serving various churches in Kansas, Bill and wife, Judy, moved to Lincoln to be closer to family. In August of 2021, Bill was helping out at the First Lutheran Church in Lincoln when he suffered a stroke.

He chose to recover at Madonna. He had visited the Lincoln Campus before as a pastor offering comfort to patients, never realizing that he would one day become a patient himself. “Lincoln is blessed to have facilities like this to take care of us in a dark time in our life,” Bill said. “Madonna is an awesome place.”

Despite the adversity, Bill made a point to remain upbeat during his rehabilitation journey. Attempting to make Madonna’s therapists smile, Bill would wear a red nose, encouraging those around him to join in the fun. Judy provided the red noses and made sure everyone who wanted a nose got one. “For a period of my life, I did motivational speaking, and I did humor, laughter and play workshops, and I always had a clown nose with me,” Bill recalled. “I just decided that would be a fun thing to do. I think it signifies happiness and joy and something to that we all need to help make our lives better.”

Striking a chord with his care team, Bill developed close ties to those helping him in his recovery. Whether it was having a conversation during a therapy session or saying hello to a fellow patient in the hallway, Bill focused on others. “I’ve always felt the best way to live our lives is to have a positive attitude and make the best out of whatever situation you may be in,” Bill said. “My faith gives me that ability.”

“He’s doing the best he can, and he’s being patient,” Judy added. “He’s waiting for that left side to wake up.”

To help regain feeling on his left side, Bill utilized the Functional Electrical Stimulation or FES Bike, one of Madonna’s many pieces of specialized technology. After hours of therapy, the man of great faith usually found himself back in Madonna’s chapel praying and playing music.

“It’s a good place to come for prayer and for just time alone,” Bill said. “I’m very grateful for it [the chapel]. Madonna is full of kindness. The therapists are absolutely amazing; the nursing staff and all the caregivers are beyond respectful.”

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