HealthSouth to present 24th Rehab Awards

Five area residents will be honored Friday when HealthSouth Rehabili­tation Hospital of Altoona presents its 24th annual Rehab Awards.

CEO Scott Filler will present certificates of recognition to the winners.

Ronald Clawson, Kim Emes and Jessica Stellabotte, all of Altoona, and Shelly Kerchner of Johnstown will receive personal achievement awards, presented to people who have made an outstanding effort to deal with or overcome a disability.

Debbie Byler, co-founder and coordinator of John’s Way Medical Equipment Ministry, will receive the personal advocate award, which is presented to someone who has given selflessly of themselves to help a person with a disability or illness.

While at work on Jan. 18, Clawson was on top of a tanker car when it exploded. He suffered significant trauma and multiple injuries including nine rib fractures, a collapsed lung, right collar bone fracture, multiple spinal fractures and burns to his face, head, both hands and his lower left leg.

This was compounded by the fact that his wife, Diane, had just completed extensive medical care for breast cancer.

With the help of their faith, family and friends, they have endured seemingly endless trips for medical treatment including outpatient therapy three days a week, follow-up appointments with multiple doctors and most recently surgery to his right shoulder, wrote Paul N. Mills, the occupational therapist who nominated Clawson for the award.

Emes was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, in which the immune system attacks part of the body’s peripheral nervous system, earlier this year and was admitted to HealthSouth Feb. 6.

When she arrived, she was completely dependent, needing assistance with all activities and required two people to transfer and sit on the edge of the bed.

“Kim had an amazing attitude and was never without a smile or pleasant word. She was a joy to work with. By discharge, Kim’s strength, balance and mobility had all returned,” wrote Kelly Bushore, a physical therapist who nominated Emes for the award.

Kerchner was diagnosed with a spinal cord injury 11 years ago after she fell down steps. After the accident, doctors told her she would never walk or use her hands again. Through her perseverance, she proved them wrong.

Today, she is walking with braces and a rolling walker, is independent with her transfers and everyday tasks.

“Shelly never gave up or lost her faith and never said why me. Instead she said I’m glad I’m alive,” wrote Wendy Waksmonski, a physical therapist assistant who nominated her for the award.

Stellabotte was diagnosed with acute demyelinating encephalopathy, a swelling of the brain and spinal cord that damages the coating on nerve fibers, when she became ill while pursuing her master’s degree in grief counseling.

When she started with occupational therapy, she was unable to tolerate even an hour of therapy and required constant redirection and assistance with even sitting. Through her hard work and determination, she became independent in all areas of self care and transfers, wrote Jolene Dignan, an occupational therapist.

“She inspired me daily and other patients and therapists, as well. She always had a smile on her face even when things were difficult for her,” Dignan wrote.

Byler was presented the personal advocate award for her efforts through John’s Way Medical Equipment Ministry.

Since its inception in 2009, Byler has been instrumental in John’s Way, giving out 16 items the first year to 4,225 items in 2016.

She also oversees more than 40 volunteers who take requests, clean and repair equipment and pick up donations and deliver equipment to clients when needed.

“Debbie’s life exhibits the characteristics of Romans 12:12-13. ‘Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality,'” wrote Deb Metzker, a retired occupational therapist who nominated her for the award.