Rick LeFeber, of the Village of Cattaraugus, is no stranger to hard work or the occasional ache and pain that comes with it. At 71, this Vietnam veteran spends his days managing more than 1,000 acres between his Zaepfel Nature Sanctuary in Napoi, NY and the 12.14-mile Pat McGee Trail which runs from Salamanca to the Village of Cattaraugus.
When he walked into the doctor’s office for what he thought was arthritis, an unexpected diagnosis left him walking out in a very different way, literally. Rick was diagnosed with cancer of the left femur. He left the doctor’s office on crutches to protect his fragile leg from breaking and spreading the cancer throughout his body.
Rick sought a second opinion at the Cleveland Clinic, which was ultimately where he had the surgery to replace 18 inches of his femur and his entire knee. His implanted prosthesis was the first knee and femur combination of its design in the world. “I feel fortunate that the type of cancer I had was the best type to have,” he stated. “The doctors were able to remove the bone without me needing chemo or radiation and rather than amputate they replaced it with a titanium prosthesis.” But the procedure wasn’t without incident. When the doctors first attempted the surgery, Rick’s heart stopped on the operating table for reasons that were never totally understood. Because he didn’t take prescription drugs or have any known heart issues, he believes it was his body’s reaction to the anesthesia that may have caused his heart to stop. After performing CPR, which left him with six broken ribs, the surgeons were able to perform the six-hour operation the following week. After experiencing a few more complications, they ended up placing a defibrillator (ICD) in his chest. Ultimately Rick’s heart issue carried over into the first week of subacute rehabilitation back home at The McGuire Group’s Autumn View Health Care Facility in Hamburg.
Rick knew he would need extensive therapy upon discharge. Being familiar with the excellent comprehensive care his step-mother and brother received at Autumn View, he had pre-planned his stay. “Autumn View was the only facility I wanted. I always go with the very best because I know I’ll have fewer problems from the start,” he stated. “It’s a matter of depth of field and whether a facility has the resources and knowledge to provide the best care. At Autumn View, I knew the staff would take a personal interest in my recovery and give me the same level of care that they had given my family members.”
During the first few days of therapy Rick experienced heart-related issues which were immediately identified and addressed by Autumn View’s staff including Dr. Mike Pelechaty, Nurse Practitioner Judy Bell and Unit Coordinator Sarah Patronik. After that, he progressed quite rapidly and even began doing extra exercises when able. “The response I received back from my therapists, Tara and Brett, was amazing and they made me want to do more,” he said. Autumn View’s therapy team is convinced that it was Rick’s positive attitude that helped him traverse his life-threatening hurdles and make such a significant recovery. “I established a synergy with my therapists,” he said. “Some people look at rehab as pain and torture. I look at it as a necessary foundation in the healing process.”
During his three weeks of inpatient rehabilitation, Autumn View’s therapists had Rick working on a combination of therapeutic exercises including quad sets and straight leg raises to strengthen his leg musculature in order to discharge the use of a knee brace. His occupational therapy included arm strengthening exercises within his cardiac precautions and working on standing tolerance while monitoring his vitals. “My therapists were extremely positive, very reactive and very supportive,” he said. “Everyone needs a strong support system, as it is paramount for a rapid and successful recovery.”
Rick now visits Autumn View twice a week as an outpatient working with therapists Carlen Koons and Nathan Moran to build upon the skills he learned in therapy for strengthening his reconstructed left leg. “It still amazes me, they carried me into Autumn View after the surgery and I walked out three weeks later,” he said. “Autumn View is so far ahead of every other facility in the area. Life is a formula, it’s a process. When you’re told you have cancer, it negatively affects this process; but you don’t have to be a ‘victim.’ With the best professional help and resources you can overcome health issues and have your full-active life back! Autumn View provides you with the staff, expertise, daily victories and encouragement to make this possible. Why would anyone settle for less?”
Autumn View Health Care Facility provides state-of-the-art subacute and outpatient rehabilitation, 24-hour skilled nursing care, palliative care and respite/short-term care. The facility continuously receives outstanding five-star ratings from the federal government, which rates every nursing facility in the country. In addition, for the past three years, the New York State Department of Health has issued a Nursing Home Quality Initiative that evaluates more than 600 nursing homes in the state based on quality performance. The McGuire Group’s six facilities are among a short list of 33 facilities state-wide that have achieved the top quintile status for three consecutive years (2013-2015), with The McGuire Group being the only multi-facility provider in the state to have achieved this milestone. In the report issued in January of 2016, Autumn View received the highest score among all Western New York nursing and rehabilitation facilities. For more information, visit www.mcguiregroup.com.
Rick LeFeber, center, is pictured with several members of Autumn View’s therapy and nursing team from left: Tara Dragowski, DPT; Nathan Moran PTA; Carlen Koons DPT; Brett Janis MS/OTR; and Sarah Patronik RN, Subacute Unit Coordinator.Read More