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Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals

Iowa SCI survivor says Madonna was “only choice” for rehab after injury

September 01, 2020

As a father of three and volunteer firefighter/EMT, Robert Goeden knows the value of hard work and perseverance. But never has that been more apparent than his life’s most recent challenge.

On January 22, Robert’s family was in the midst of remodeling their home in Pierson, Iowa when a winter storm came in. The wind blew some house wrap loose, so Robert climbed up onto the scaffolding to tack it up.

“I made it about 12-15 feet up and next thing I know I’m on the ground, my wife is covering me up with a blanket and I broke by back,” Robert said.

The diagnosis was burst fracture of his T12 and compressed his L1-L3 vertebrae – an incomplete spinal cord injury, meaning Robert didn’t suffer complete paralysis. In fact, his surgeon at MercyOne Siouxland Medical Center gave him a good chance at recovery.

That’s when the Goeden family turned to Madonna. For them, it was the obvious next step for recovery.

“We knew we were coming here as soon as we knew it was a back injury,” Robert said. He noted the several members of his Pierson-Kingsley community who sought Madonna for hope and healing after serious injury or illness. The Goeden family knew the 3-hour drive to Lincoln would pay off.

That distance, though, wasn’t easy. It meant Robert had to leave his wife, Stephanie, and their three children at home. Getting back to them quickly became Robert’s driving force in his daily therapies.

“Coming into it the only thing I had to give was my energy,” he said. “I have a big group of people pulling for me here and the only thing I really could give is devotion to getting better.”

A thoughtfully designed, individualized rehabilitation plan tackled Robert’s deficits head on. When he arrived at Madonna, he had feeling in his legs, but no movement in his left leg. Immediately, Robert’s team of occupational and physical therapists worked together to stimulate his lower body.

It started with helping Robert to transfer in and out of his wheelchair on his own. Once he accomplished that, the focus shifted toward getting Robert back on his feet – first by standing, then by taking steps and regaining balance.

“There are a lot of little differences that turn into big differences quickly,” Robert said. “My favorite is still pool therapy. In the pool all the muscles you didn’t know you could move yet, you can see the movements in the pool long before you can see them outside of the pool because gravity keeps you from being able to move them.”

As Robert continued to make gains in therapies, he also cultivated lifelong relationships with other spinal cord patients. He wasn’t too keen on staying to himself in his room, and you would often find him in common areas on the unit talking with the nursing staff or with other patients. Robert said the other people on his unit really turned into his family – people who would share in his victories and support him in his challenges. Having that support system far from home made a big impact.

After two months, Robert left Madonna, trading his wheelchair for a walker and he independently walked out of the hospital. Two months later, he returned for a follow up appointment using only a cane. He continues to make gains in outpatient therapy at his home in Pierson.

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