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Walking on Sunshine

Published on Jun. 16, 2020

How one special painting honors the care and hard work of local rehab patients.

A confetti of vivid colors brightens up the entryway of the Mary Free Bed at Munson Medical Center – a 16-bed (and growing) inpatient rehabilitation unit that serves patients from all over northern Michigan. There’s a story behind the swirling lemon lollipop sun that glows against a sky of vibrant, thickly textured colors. A story of pain and despair. A story of hope and freedom. A story of continued triumph.

“To see these patients and their determination is just incredible,” shares the painting’s artist Marcia Weber. “I thought, this is where they need a big sunshine.”

Among these patients was Marcia’s father Dan, a widowed, retired small business owner who lives just a short ride down the road from his daughter. You might say that Dan is not your average 94-year-old. Fiercely independent, the Traverse City native loves staying physically active, which includes maintaining his backyard pool and keeping the lawn cut to perfection, along with the many other chores he enjoys doing around his Old Mission home. 

Settling into his mid-90s, Dan perhaps knew in the back of his mind that he couldn’t go on doing this level of work forever. But he likely never expected that the happily humming pace of his life would come to a screeching halt.

An Unexpected Storm

It was a pretty typical August afternoon when he headed out to another property he owns, hauling one of his favorite tools – his riding mower – behind his truck. “I’ll be back for happy hour,” he reassured his daughter Marcia and longtime family friend Paula, who were enjoying the warm summer day at Dan’s pool. But later that afternoon, Paula began to feel nervous that Dan wasn’t back. Marcia reassured her that he had likely stopped by her brother Mark’s house. And she was right. Dan had stopped by his son’s for a brief visit, waving goodbye as he backed out of the driveway. 

About a mile down the road at the intersection of U.S. 31 and U.S. 37, known locally as Chum’s Corner, Dan ran a red light, hitting another truck in the process. Thankfully, the man in the other truck walked away safely. Unfortunately, Dan did not. He was tossed around in his cab several times, fracturing his spine and pelvis, rupturing his diaphragm, damaging his brain’s frontal lobe, and breaking several bones. 

As fate would have it, a nearby ambulance crew was able to respond immediately, extricating Dan from the truck before racing him to Munson Medical Center’s Intensive Care Unit. 

A Silver Lining

From the time Dan opened his eyes, he was ready to work on regaining his independence, starting with the removal of his breathing tube. The resilient patient and his family were then recommended for transfer to the Mary Free Bed at Munson Medical Center inpatient rehabilitation unit.

When Marcia, a retired nurse, first heard the words Mary Free Bed, she immediately thought of Grand Rapids, home of Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. Though she was aware of their nationally-recognized reputation, she certainly wasn’t prepared to see him transferred two and a half hours downstate. 

Rehab Munson Healthcare

But to her surprise, her father would be receiving the same caliber of care just a few wings over from where he was. 

“It was a delightful shock to learn of their partnership,” she shares. 

Dan was in the unit for three weeks, working daily with a devoted team of physical, occupational, and speech therapy experts.

“I have never seen a unit that functions like that unit does. I get goosebumps when I think about it now,” Marcia shares. “They’re just an unbelievable staff. We were just so lucky that we met them.”

But Dan had more to work through more than his physical injuries. Surviving a traumatic accident and adapting to a new reality were something both he and his family needed to cope with emotionally as well.

Marcia credits the unit’s neuropsychologist, Paul Callaghan, PsyD, who among his many roles, helps patients like Dan, along with their families, adjust to their new normal. This often starts with guiding his patients through processing any residual stress caused by the circumstance that brought them to inpatient rehab in the first place, such as an accident or stroke.

“Dr. Callaghan has been extremely instrumental in his rehab and recovery,” Marcia says.

With the support of an entire team of rehabilitation experts – his family rallying at his side – Dan’s road to healing began, as he devoted three hours a day, six days a week to physical, occupational, and speech therapy. 

Sunny Days Ahead

Talking to Dan now, you might not suspect that he endured such a traumatic ordeal.  He’s back home with the help of private home care – though he has successfully bargained for a few hours of alone time each day. Dan also continues his outpatient 

Rehab Munson Healthcarephysical, occupation, and speech therapy at Foster Family Community Health Center in Traverse City, in partnership with Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation.

“Talking to him now, you would never notice that anything happened. It’s just amazing what these ongoing rehab therapies have done,” says Marcia.

Dan was recently reassessed by his physiatrist Marshall Poole, DO, who has worked alongside him since his journey began in inpatient rehab. 

“Mr. Weber has made amazing progress,” shares Dr. Poole. “It has been an honor to care for him and maximize his independence.”

Although his journey of recovery isn’t over, Dan is already back to doing what he loves. 

“It sounds crazy, but he’s been so happy to get back to tinkering around the house again. Changing light bulbs, tightening up faucets, writing checks. He wants to be useful,” Marcia explains.

Staring at the wonder of Marcia’s painting, suitably named Walking on Sunshine, it’s hard not to immediately think of patients like her father and the “sunshine” they have regained through their dedicated hours to therapy. 

“Walking on Sunshine had to be the name because of how this place makes you feel,” Weber says. “That unit makes me get tearful. I am so sincere when I say that. It was an honor to be able to give this painting from my heart.”

The Mary Free Bed at Munson Medical Center inpatient rehabilitation unit is growing! Eight additional beds are anticipated later this summer. Learn more about our multiple rehab services – including outpatient physical therapy – and all the ways our experts are helping you to get better, move better, and address your pain or other challenges.