When Knoxville resident Tom Sandmeier finished his shift at 3M around 3 p.m. on September 5, 2012, he had no idea that date would be permanently seeded into his memory.
Shortly after returning home Tom decided to rest, and when he awoke and started to put on his shoes he noticed his left foot start to feel numb as if it were asleep, and the feeling eventually continued up the left side of his body. Tom was rushed to the hospital where it was determined he had had a large hemorrhagic stroke and death was possible. Doctors were unable to predict how much functioning would return, but did anticipate that there would be improvement.
On October 8, Tom was admitted to On With Life's Post-Acute Inpatient program. He arrived with many of the same limitations he had during his stay at the hospital including trouble walking and memory issues.
"I was very fortunate to have such great support from my family, friends, church, community, and co-workers with frequent visits, calls, prayers, and much assistance in maintaining our home while Paula stayed with me all the time," said Tom. "We celebrated all improvements, being thankful for what function I had, and not focusing on what I didn't have yet."
On December 19, Tom proudly walked out of the facility using his cane with his wife, Paula, at his side.
Tom's positive attitude propelled him through months of therapy and that same attitude stuck with him as he returned home. They reviewed their options for future therapy and elected to continue with On With Life's Outpatient services, even though it would mean a two hour round trip each session. Therapy went very well and Tom was able to discharge from the program in June 2013.
He continues to set new goals for himself back home with Paula now assisting as his therapist. The couple stays busy going to the gym, gardening, painting, doing repair work, hunting, cooking, driving and taking care of their grandchildren. In addition, they have continued with a home exercise program. Tom is now able to grill out independently, and he is back to riding his ATV on occasion.
Perhaps what excites Tom most, is being able to take care of his grandchildren two to three times each week with his wife.
"It was a fear of mine - not being around to watch my grandkids grow up," said Tom. "Just to be here to see my kids raise children of their own, being able to read to them, play games and put together puzzles, that's really all I could've asked for."