James' Story

James Goertzen sitting up during a therapy session.

James Goertzen, a 78-year-old widower, enjoys an active life in Mandeville with his two beloved dogs. A retired corporate jet pilot, he also participates in various hobbies including studying astronomy, shooting handguns competitively and building models.  

First diagnosed with spinal stenosis in 1995, James had multiple back surgeries and relies on a rollator/walker for assistance with walking. Recently, increasing back pain prompted yet another surgery and the need for inpatient rehabilitation afterwards. James had recovered from a previous surgery at Northshore Rehabilitation Hospital and since he had appreciated the experience there, he opted to return to the hospital for this next round of rehabilitation as well.

Upon arrival, James was unable to walk or perform any basic self-care tasks. His physical therapy team focused on exercising his legs with therapy bands, stretching, working on balance with the parallel bars and walking with a walker. He also learned proper techniques for getting in and out of bed, how to use adaptive equipment to get dressed and bathing independently. James also worked on increasing his upper body strength with free weight and therapy band exercises as well as sessions using the arm bike fitness machine.

After 21 days of intensive therapy, James was glad to be able to walk with a walker again and get back to an assisted self-care routine. He said that a turning point in his recovery was when he was encouraged to take some steps with his walker and was successful in walking a few feet. He was proud of that accomplishment and appreciated the encouragement he received throughout his recovery from his care team.

Upon discharge, James couldn’t wait to return home to his two dogs, resuming his hobbies and taking some day trips to visit friends. He will also continue his rehabilitation to continue rebuilding strength and stamina with outpatient therapy.

When asked about his experience at Northshore Rehabilitation Hospital, James shared, “The people here are such good people.” Based on his experience, he advises others on the road to recovery, “Determination is the most important. If you want it badly enough, you can get better.”