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Surviving a Severe Stroke and Becoming Bob Again

October 19, 2011

Joe was the first of the three Zellerman brothers to get married. Just a few weeks after his wedding in September of 2004, his father, Bob, suffered a bleeding aneurysm, a bulge in a blood vessel at the base of the brain.

When Bob’s aneurysm ruptured, he was in a dire situation.

“When I arrived at Barnes-Jewish Hospital to see my dad,” Joe says, “my family told me that the doctors weren’t sure if he would make it through the night.”

Choosing Barnes-Jewish Hospital When Care Matters Most

Joe’s family had recently been comforted by the great care and outcomes that his grandparents had received at Barnes-Jewish Hospital for their critical medical needs. So when Joe’s mother, Ricki, found Bob unconscious, she asked that the ambulance take him to Barnes-Jewish—even though it was not the closest hospital to their home in Maryville, Ill.

“It was a blessing that Dad was at Barnes- Jewish, where my family has such confidence in the doctors,” Joe says.

At Barnes-Jewish, Bob was cared for by some of the best neurosurgeons in the world: Gregory Zipfel, MD, Michael Chicoine, MD, and Ralph Dacey, MD.

Dr. Zipfel recalls Bob’s unique situation, a very complex aneurysm that could only be treated by surgery, which carries risks. During that surgery, the aneurysm ruptured and ultimately resulted in a stroke.

“Bob survived this trauma because he received care from Barnes-Jewish Hospital,” Dr. Zipfel says. “He had a long hospitalization that required the care of numerous experts in neurosurgery, neurology and rehabilitation. Because of this care and expertise, Bob’s life was saved, and it is this expert knowledge that continues to make the difference for our patients today.”

“Barnes-Jewish Extended Care Gave Bob Back to Us”

After seven weeks at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Bob’s care was transitioned to Barnes-Jewish Extended Care, a rehabilitation center that brings together the expertise of staff from Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine to work longterm with patients to regain their mobility. At the time of his transfer in 2005, Bob was unable to speak, walk, sit up or hold his head upright.

“I remember when Bob first came to Extended Care,” says Cathy Huels, speech language pathologist and Extended Care rehabilitation supervisor. “Bob is resilient, he is determined and he has a great family supporting him. Those three things have been key since the beginning and have given Bob the support he’s needed to be with us today, participating in life.”

Today, Bob continues to make incredible progress, thanks to twice-weekly visits to both Extended Care and the Rehabilitation Institute of St. Louis, a partnership of BJC HealthCare, Health South and Washington University School of Medicine. His most recent success was walking down the aisle with his son David at his wedding.

“When Bob and I first started working together, he had three goals: first to stand, then to walk and last to dance,” says Michelle Mullen, an exercise specialist at Extended Care who has worked with Bob for more than five years.

“Bob works very hard. Seeing him walk down the aisle with David and dance with Ricki at the reception was really awesome.”

The Zellerman family is grateful that the team at Extended Care has pushed Bob at “just the right speed” to help him meet his goals, and is thankful for the support offered to the entire family. Ricki says, “The doctors at Barnes-Jewish Hospital saved his life, but it was Barnes-Jewish Extended Care that gave Bob back to us.”

Supporting the Team that Supports Dad

The Zellerman family, including Bob and Ricki’s three granddaughters, has spent countless hours with Bob at Extended Care.

“Dad’s determination to work hard to get back to his abilities before the stroke was reaffirmed when he became a grandfather,” Joe says. “As soon as my oldest daughter, Madyson, could call him ‘papa,’ you could see the light at the end of the tunnel get even brighter.”

At Extended Care, the Zellermans have met many people who have suffered from strokes.

“I’ve realized that while every patient is receiving exceptional care at Extended Care, not all patients have families and the critical support that comes from having a family,” Joe says. “So I decided to raise money to help Extended Care keep going that extra mile to support patients without family to lean on.”

Joe established the annual Bob Zellerman Golf Classic to raise money for The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital’s Barnes-Jewish Extended Care Fund. The fifth annual tournament was held in August 2011. To find out more about the 2012 tournament, contact jzellerman7@yahoo.com. Annual tournament proceeds continue to support a wide variety of patients’ rehabilitation needs. Cathy Huels notes, “Already this support has purchased equipment that helps our patients regain their strength, get home and live independently more quickly than before.”

Joe appreciates being able to “help give other stroke patients a chance at a recovery like my father has had.”

To support the Barnes-Jewish Extended Care Fund (#5805) at The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital, give online now. If you have questions, please call David Sandler at (314) 362-3499 or email GivingBarnesJewish@bjc.org.
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