Poconos Man Puts Pieces Back Together Following Strokes, Traumatic Brain Injury

November 25, 2019

Karen Tetor noticed something was off with her husband, Paul.

Avid skiers, the Tetors were vacationing in Austria with plans to traverse various parts of the world-famous Alps.

Paul seemed disoriented. One night at dinner during a massive snowstorm, Paul suffered an excruciating headache. Thousands of miles from home and needing immediate medical attention, the Tetors headed to a hospital an hour away in Innsbruck.

Paul’s condition worsened during the drive. Before passing out, he reached out and rubbed Karen’s back. It was Paul’s way of telling her it’d be OK, Karen recalled.

“It was the most powerful moment in our marriage,” says Karen.

‘No One Can Predict’

At the hospital, Paul, 68, underwent an emergency craniotomy to relieve pressure on his brain. Doctors removed a hand-sized piece of skull. They learned Paul suffered a subdural hematoma, which resulted in multiple strokes and a brain injury.

Following surgery, Paul could only flutter his eyelids and slightly move one thumb. Meanwhile, Karen had to decide how they would return to the United States and get Paul the care he needed. After a scary and confusing couple of weeks, the Tetors flew back to Pennsylvania to begin recovery. Given his brain injury, it was difficult to predict Paul’s long-term prognosis.

“No one can predict how [the brain is] going to respond,” says Karen.

‘Rehabilitation Is What Good Shepherd Does’

Seeking inpatient rehabilitation for Paul, Karen and her daughter toured Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital. They heard laughter and saw smiling people in the hallways. The choice became clear pretty quick, says Karen.

“Rehabilitation is what Good Shepherd does,” says Karen. “It is rehab. There was a real confidence in making that choice.”

The decision was made, but Paul still had a difficult recovery in front of him because of his TBI.

Coordinated Effort

A retired teacher in the Pocono Mountain School District, Paul skied three days a week, participated actively in local conservation efforts and enjoyed fixing things. But when he first arrived at Good Shepherd, Paul couldn’t stand or hold himself up. He needed help from multiple people to walk.

Work started fast, as Good Shepherd assigned a personalized team for Paul, including physicians specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation; physical, occupational, speech and recreational therapists working to build his strength and physical independence back up daily; and nursing staff and neuropsychology team members to support him — and Karen — on a daily basis.

“The people care,” says Paul. “I’m surprised how many people out in the hallway know my name.”

Rehabilitation was intense, but progress started showing immediately. Within a week, Paul was standing for longer periods of time. He began working in the Ekso Bionics™ exoskeleton, a rehabilitation technology that helped him relearn to walk.

“There is such a coordinated effort at looking at the whole individual,” says Karen. “It’s that coordinated team that is putting all the puzzle pieces together.”

Sunsets on the Porch, Hope in Recovery

Following his discharge from Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital, Paul’s recovery continues at the couple’s Lake Wallenpaupack home in the Poconos. He gets in and out of the car with minimal help, uses the stairs with assistance and walks farther distances each day.

Paul and Karen enjoy sitting on the porch, watching sunsets along the water and visiting with friends frequently throughout the week. They have plans to resume traveling, starting with an Alaskan cruise.

Paul wants to lead as normal a life as possible, he says. He wants to get back to simple pleasures: using his leaf blower, driving his tractor, going out on the boat.

“I made a lot of progress and I hope that progress continues,” says Paul.

For more information on brain injury rehabilitation, call 1.888.44.REHAB (73422) or request an appointment.