Greg Discher is a step closer to going home, thanks to the standard-setting medical care he received at Acuity Specialty Hospital of Southern New Jersey.
Discher was ventilator-dependent when he arrived at Acuity in early November, 2020. He was breathing on his own with the help of a tracheostomy collar at the time of his release on Jan. 20, 2021 – a monumental day for Discher and his wife, Diane Wall, along with many newfound friends at Acuity.
Today, Discher is among the latest patients who have been successfully treated at Acuity, where patient clinical outcomes are among the best in the nation for ventilator weaning. According to Wall, her husband remains breathing on his own with the aid of the most minimum size trach as he continues his recovery away from home in an acute rehabilitation setting.
“Greg is doing wonderfully,” says Wall. “Without Acuity, I do not believe Greg would be where he is now…I believe Acuity saved my husband’s life.”
According to Wall, it was back in early August, 2020, that Discher was diagnosed with a kidney stone, a common but painful condition that he’d experienced before. Only this time, the size of the stone required doctors to insert a ureteral stent to aid in its passing. But by late August, Discher’s health deteriorated as he had developed blood clots and septic shock. He was too weak to even undergo a procedure to remove the stent, she recalls.
By early October, Discher was transferred to his first rehabilitation facility, embarking on round one of his road to recovery. After three weeks of intensive therapy, he was released. Unfortunately, on his third day at home, Discher suffered a catastrophic fall, snapping his neck and damaging his cerebral cortex, which required emergency spinal fusion surgery and another lengthy hospital stay.
Discher arrived at Acuity on Nov. 4, 2020.
In addition to being ventilator-dependent, he could not talk, move his hands or lift his legs, and his once strong, healthy frame was reduced to “a puddle of skin” due to significant weight loss, recalls Wall.
At Acuity, Discher’s days were spent building his strength in physical therapy, trialing a speaking valve because he desperately wanted to talk to his wife, and learning how to stay calm throughout the process of decreasing his degree of ventilator support. Discher also underwent procedures to insert a feeding tube, and to remove the stent.
“Never once did he complain, or say, ‘Why me?’ In fact, he’d say, ‘Why not me?” says Wall, noting Discher is a 10-year survivor of esophageal cancer.
Theirs is a story of friendship-turned- mad crush-turned- true love that spans three decades, and when they married on June 5, 2013, “We knew it was death do us part,” says Wall.
Being separated throughout Discher’s recent multiple hospitalizations has been hard on the couple, and COVID-19 visitation bans made it even harder, but they prevailed with some wifely ingenuity and support from friends both in and out of the hospital.
Wall describes her husband’s team of caretakers at Acuity as second to none.
Not one even batted an eye when Discher brought along a flashlight, which he’d kept with him since his spinal surgery, as sort of his own private “SOS” alarm, she says. In fact, because her husband had use of his feet, one of the night nurses would always make certain to position the flashlight close to his toes, knowing it gave Discher comfort even if he couldn’t actually use it.
By the end of Discher’s stay at Acuity, the couple was on a first-name basis with many of the staff, like nurse Ron, and respiratory therapists including Diane, Amy, Asia, Rachel, Amer, Kenya, Jenn, Abdou, Thomas, Larry, Walt, Donna, Carlos and Linda.
“Acuity was a miracle for him,” says Wall, who captured cherished images of Discher’s release from the facility in photographs she shared on Facebook.
In one of the photos, nurse Ron is saying goodbye to Discher. Though patient and nurse are masked, the emotion of the moment is obvious in the way their eyes are fixed on one another.
Throughout the facility, Discher was known as “a very kind man who was appreciative” of everything and everyone, recalls Valerie McCann, director of respiratory care.
“He did remarkably well,” Wall says of her husband’s time at Acuity. “Their job was to wean him off the vent and they did. He left with a trach collar.
“He looked so good when he left,” she says, almost gushing. “I cannot thank them enough.”
Discher is no stranger to helping others. He’s a former longtime volunteer with the Deer Park Fire Department, and he was an active fire police officer before he became ill.
Discher, who at last report has been getting stronger with every passing day, is eager to return home. He plans to make up for some lost cuddle time with the family dog, a mutt named Stevie; help organize a family reunion in August; and at some point, visit the couple’s favorite place on earth: Disney World. For now, this longtime member of the Philly Vikings Fancy Brigade is focused on regaining full use of his arms and legs – and reclaiming his celebrated Mummer’s strut.