Scott Kallemeyn spent Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, like many Eastern Iowans following the August 10 derecho - he was doing yard work and planting a tree.
“We had recently moved to a home in the country, and I was working with my boys outside,” recalled Kallemeyn. “It was a nice fall day. I was moving a pile of dirt with the lawn mower and trailer. I was driving down a hill, it wasn’t very steep, but the grass was slightly wet in the shade and my tires lost traction. I started to slide, and the lawn mower jackknifed, and I was flipped on the ground.”
The trailer landed on Kallemeyn, pinning him. Thankfully, his sons were not near the lawn mower when the accident occurred.
“Right away, I couldn’t feel my feet or legs,” shared Kallemeyn. “I knew my injuries were pretty traumatic, but I was fully conscious. My boys checked on me, and I told them to get our neighbor and call 911, but I realized I still had my phone in my pocket. I was able to pull it out and called 911. I talked to them right away.”
St. Luke's LifeGuard Air Ambulance was dispatched to Kallemeyn’s home. The team flew Kallemeyn to the hospital where he had emergency spine surgery. After surgery he spent a week recovering in the hospital, he was cleared to begin rehabilitation, but the accident left him with paraplegia.
“I work at St. Luke’s,” shared Kallemeyn. “I knew St. Luke’s Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PMR) is the best in the state. My body went through so much trauma that even the most basic things were hard at first. I knew this team would provide exceptional care and get me moving again.”
“Scott had a traumatic injury to his spine or power cord,” explained Stan Mathew, MD, St. Luke’s PMR medical director.
“When I first saw Scott, he had little movement below his waist. We were able to get his pain controlled and then our team created a comprehensive plan, which included physical and occupational therapy. It started with an intense strengthening process.”
“It’s a phenomenal team,” Kallemeyn shared. “They had me use different exercises to strengthen my upper body and re-fire the muscles in my lower extremities. They used a lot of different approaches and equipment, which was important to my recovery. I’m very fortunate my injury was low enough on my spine that I still had upper body and arm functions.
They made my experience the best it could be given the circumstances.”
Upbeat. Positive. Focused.
“Scott spent seven weeks as a hospitalized patient at St. Luke’s Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation,” said Kevin Komenda, St. Luke’s PMR senior physical therapist. “At the end of his stay, he was able to walk approximately 40 feet using leg braces.
He wasn't walking as his main mode of motion, he used the wheelchair, but he had progressed to being completely independent from the wheelchair level. He was no longer dependent on others for assistance. This progress was due to Scott's unrelenting desire to get stronger, and our in-patient rehab staff aiming that desire in the correct direction by working on strengthening/stretching, pain reduction, nutrition, counseling and functional mobility training. He was always upbeat, positive and focused on his future.”
Since his release from the hospital, Kallemeyn has continued his therapy at St. Luke’s as an outpatient. He continues to make progress and recently hit a personal goal.
Continued Therapy and Progress
“I knew it would be challenging for me to regain everything, but my one-year goal was to walk using only ankle braces and forearm crutches, and I hit my goal. I primarily do this during my physical therapy sessions, but I can do it outside of PT. I also am able to stand for periods of time. It’s been helpful at home and I also am able to drive using a modified vehicle.”
“Hospitals from all over Iowa send their most complex patients to St. Luke’s Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation because we have the expertise to care for them better than anywhere else,” said Dr. Mathew. “We have an exceptional multidisciplinary team, with years of experience ready to help and support patients who have experienced a traumatic event or serious illness. We come alongside them to help restore their lives.”
“I have been back at work at St. Luke’s for a little over a year now,” Kallemeyn said. “It’s still a definite struggle, I love being outdoors, camping, hiking and helping coach my kids' sports. I miss it and can participate, but it’s different. I am learning to balance this transition. I am grateful to be alive. I am thankful for the unbelievable support not only from my hospital care team but from everyone at St. Luke’s, our friends, church, neighbors and of course, my family.”
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