Project manager Justin McMillen, 46, recently returned from a business trip in Brazil when he experienced a stroke. The Kansas native spent 10 days at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis in Wichita before coming to Madonna’s Stroke Program. From the beginning, the father of two made it his mission to return to his family and work again.
“There was a nurse at the hospital, an old family friend; she highly recommended Madonna,” Justin recalled. “She said it was the best place in the world.”
During his first week at Madonna, Justin had little to no use of his right side. He also struggled with his balance, vision and speech.
“When he first got here, we were just doing transfers from one place to the next, and he was needing 50% to 75% help to just even move,” Betsy Havekost, his inpatient occupational therapist, said. “By the time he left inpatient, he was walking. It's really just inspirational to see the incredible progress he made.”
Justin’s recovery happened just as the U.S. entered a new, safer phase in the COVID-19 pandemic. As restrictions began to lift across the nation, Madonna started to once again offer specialized services to help patients like Justin return to a new normal. During his rehabilitation journey, Justin and his family benefited from many of these services, including community outings, on-campus housing and Madonna’s Work Re-entry Program.
“Outings are a wonderful tool for getting patients back into a “normal” setting, having interactions with others in the community, and working on higher-level problem-solving and executive functions,” Havekost said. “Justin went to the grocery store and had to locate items in the store, interact with employees and stick to a budget. Then we came back to the hospital, and he got to actually cook the meal he had planned in our on-campus therapy kitchen.”
The opportunity to practice these real-life skills proved to be invaluable to Justin’s recovery. Over time, he learned how to increase his endurance, manage his mobility and readjust to independent living.
After leaving Madonna’s inpatient program, Justin started Madonna’s outpatient Rehabilitation Day Program, where he continued his intense therapy. He and a few members of his family even lived in on-campus housing.
“Having on-campus housing has been nice,” Justin said. “I can have the support of my family right here.”
At the same time, Justin also started Madonna’s Work Re-entry Program, and he began to relearn his job. The program enabled him to complete various simulated work tasks such as interpreting blueprints.
“Here at Madonna, the Work Re-entry Program is a collaborative effort from all staff who support individuals in resuming their careers,” Virginia Schweitzer, Madonna’s Work Re-entry Program leader, said.
For Justin, his time at Madonna has been one he’ll always appreciate.
“The therapists, the nurses, my whole team here has been more than supportive,” he said.