Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals

Retired Children’s foundation director fortunate for Madonna after spinal cord injury

June 04, 2017

OMAHA, Neb. (MADONNA)--With every step Roger Lewis takes back his life after suffering a spinal cord injury in November 2016. 

“This is the hardest fight of my life. I think what you have to have is a reality of what a spinal injury is like and what recovery is like,” said Roger. 

For Roger, part of recovery is the Lokomat, specialized technology that helps him regain his walking pattern. This after an accidental fall while visiting family in Iowa. Roger was walking into an auditorium to see a granddaughter’s musical performance when he tripped and fell forward. He instantly knew something was wrong.  

“I was walking through the door of the auditorium and I simply tripped on the threshold and fell forward. I heard a crack in my neck when I fell down on my face," said Roger. 

Roger’s fall was made worse by the narrowing of his spinal canal called spinal stenosis, which resulted in temporary paralysis in his arms and legs. He was flown to the University of Iowa hospital in Iowa City. There, doctors removed the backs of five vertebrae in his neck to relieve pressure on his spinal cord and inserted two rods to stabilize his neck and upper back. When it came time for rehabilitation, Roger, newly retired from his role as executive director for Children’s Hospital & Medical Center Foundation, chose Madonna for its specialized equipment, expertise and location.

“We are very fortunate in this part of the country to have a facility like Madonna available for those of us who face these kinds of problems and face this kind of challenge to get better,” said Roger. 

For Roger, getting better has involved Madonna’s full continuum of care starting with the Madonna Rehabilitation Specialty Hospital in Lincoln, which handles complex patients. Once medically stable and able to tolerate longer periods of therapy, he transitioned to acute rehabilitation.

“I had occupational therapy, physical, speech and aquatic therapy so I was a really busy guy during that time and it really helps you make great progress because you’re working with spinal cord injury experts. They know exactly what you do to move forward,” said Roger. 

Physical therapist Kathy Sievers is one of those spinal cord injury experts helping Roger move forward. 

“I’d ask him to do something hard and he’d look at me like I was crazy but then he would turn around and try it. He was very motivated to get better, to be able to do things on his own and to be able to continue to be able to enjoy his retirement,” said Kathy Sievers, a physical therapist for Madonna. 

Roger next transitioned to Madonna’s Transitional Care Unit or TCU, where he continued to make gains to be successful at home. 

“The therapists there are excellent. I made a lot progress in just learning how to become more independent,” said Roger. 

Roger says along with staff, friends and family, especially wife Carol, have helped him succeed. 

"My personal hero has been my wife, Carol, who really the last few months has learned what the vows of in sickness and in health mean when you’re married. She spent a lot of time on the interstate between Lincoln and Omaha coming down to see me and spent many nights on a recliner in my room because in the early days when I felt most helpless I felt better having her there at night with me and so she was willing to do that and that was very helpful to me," said Roger. 

Now in TherapyPlus Roger continues to gain strength and movement in his arms using specialized the Armeo Spring. 

“You play games but it’s got a serious purpose and that’s to help you learn how to move your arms to a great extent, which is very important for my kind of injury because the arms are the last to come back in a central spinal cord injury. ... There is no guarantees of what the extent of your recovery will be, no one can tell … so you have to have patience because in the beginning recovery is incremental and can be very slow and sometimes not steady improvement,” said Roger.  

Click here to learn more about Madonna's spinal cord injury program.