Barbara Van Reed
“I didn’t think she’d ever be here again,” said Joe Borowski of his wife Charlotte. “It’s miracle. We said lots of prayers.”
We’re sitting in the gazebo in the backyard of their home on Emerald Ave. in Webster as Charlotte recounts the story of her five years of being “hoyerized” in and out of bed at the Oakwood Rehabilitation and Nursing Center.
For Charlotte, it’s the people at Oakwood who are the heroes and heroines of her story, and she wants to thank every one of them for being part of her miracle.
Mrs. Borowski initially called us because her friend Constance O’Grady, the lady in our Slater Street sidewalk story some weeks back, told her we were looking for stories from people who worked at Cranston Print Works. Both Joe and Charlotte Borowski spent many years at CPW and we’ll get to that later. Charlotte really wanted to talk about Oakwood.
This is her story. Back in 2005, Charlotte fell down the stairs in her home and required surgery on her arm. After physical therapy at Hubbard's Transitional Care Unit, she was able to return home. Two weeks later, very tired, she passed out and went into a coma. She was brought to UMass Memorial Hospital, where she spent two months in the coma before coming out of it. Afterwards, she was unable to move her legs. She was transferred to the Meadows of Leicester Nursing Home, a Kendrick Healthcare facility, and was subsequently moved to the Kendrick facility in Webster, Oakwood, where Joe could visit her every day.
That was in November, and Charlotte began five years of just existing, being lifted out of bed into a wheelchair, and a couple of hours later, hoisted back into the bed. She never got a good explanation for what happened, why she was unable walk. She was told it might have been a virus.
But then the miracle began, in the form of Dr. Paula Carmichael, who came to Oakwood in 2010 as the Medical Director. “She was the best thing that ever happened to me,” said Charlotte. Dr. Carmichael put Charlotte on a diet and back into therapy. It wasn’t Dr. Carmichael alone who accomplished the miracle, however. Charlotte is quick to name all the people who were instrumental in her progress to walk again.
“It was Dr. Carmichael and God and the people at Oakwood,” she said. “Every one of the aides and nurses I had were wonderful to me.”
Charlotte’s physical and occupational therapy began with teaching her how to stand, first for just two or three minutes, working up to 15 minutes. Then it was time to take a step. “I will never forget the day the therapist said, ‘Tomorrow you are going to take two steps.’ I’m not ready, I said. ‘I think you are,’ she said. I was so scared I didn’t sleep all night long.” The next day they stood her by a walker. “The therapist said to me, ‘Don’t just stand there, you’re going to move your feet.’ And instead of two steps, I took five steps. Later I took five or six more. Everybody who was there, my husband, the staff, the kitchen crew, they all clapped.”
When Charlotte had come out of her coma five years before, her right hand, which had been totally normal, was clenched in a tight fist, and she was unable to use it. She was told she would never be able to write again. Last year, another doctor, Dr. David Kim, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon at St. Vincent Hospital, disagreed and operated on her wrist to unclench her fingers. He succeeded well enough so that Charlotte could once again hold a pen. “I do all the bills now,” she said proudly.
Over the course of a year she lost 100 pounds, learned how to climb stairs, and was finally ready to go home.
She tells how therapists Meghan and Michelle came to her house to make sure she would be able to maneuver. She has a chairlift for the stairs, and for a while, until the insurance ran out, she had a VNA nurse come. Charlotte can dress herself and take care of her insulin. Husband Joe does the cooking. “I do very well,” she says.
Here’s the CPW part of the story. Charlotte worked there for 25 years as an inspector, checking the manufactured cloth for defects. One day she and a co-worker were in the Worcester Road crosswalk, coming out of work, when they were hit by an elderly man in a truck. Her friend suffered back injuries and Charlotte’s left arm was broken.
She was out of work from May until September of that year, she recalls, and also remembers that many of the workers were not happy to see her back. They were jealous, she says, because it was an incentive job, compensated based on how many defects were found. It was a good job. Her supervisor reminded the workers that she had almost been killed.
Sometime later, Charlotte had to leave CPW. She had had two toes removed because of diabetes, and went on disability in 2002. “I would have stayed there until I was 65,” she said. “It was a great place to work.”
Joe worked at Cranston in the print room for 26 years until he retired at age 62. He’s now 71.
Also 71 now, Charlotte is thrilled to say that she is still making progress. Last week she was able to strip the bed for the first time, and dusted and cleaned the frig. She even made it to St. Joseph’s Church a few weeks ago for a special event.
Charlotte is grateful to all the people that helped her. She is especially thankful for the aides, Karen Leary, Danny Roache, Felicia Aponte, and all the rest of them. “They have it hard,” she says, “but they never lost their temper with me.”
She lists other people she wants to thank: Gail Jackson, John Lamb, Michelle Cove, Kim Nelson, Joan Avery, Donna Kelley, Chris Jacob, Sandy Germain, Meghan Lapierre, Dean Mazzarelli, and Gloria Veroneau.
I hope this story may give people a lift,” she says, “to know that you don’t have to be there forever, but can come home.” Charlotte hasn’t forgotten the people she lived with for so long at Oakwood, 92-year old Nellie, for example, and goes back to visit her.
- Wednesday, 18 July 2012
- Posted in Categories: : Letter From the Editor