Matt Durham sees himself as lucky.
It may come as a surprise, considering Matt’s last few months. Last year, the 70-year-old grandfather from Whidbey Island broke his neck in a fall and spent more than a month recovering in Providence medical centers in Spokane.
Still, Matt feels lucky. Lucky to be alive. Lucky to have “the best care in Washington.”
A life-changing misstep
It was late September when the accident happened. Matt was helping paint his extended family’s home in Priest Lake. Late at night, he took a misstep and fell down 15 stairs.
“You never realize how quickly your life can change,” Matt said.
Matt’s brother found him more than an hour later, crumpled on the floor in agony. His brother called 911 and Matt was rushed to a rural hospital in Newport.
Matt’s spinal cord injury was severe. He had a spine fracture and disc herniation, which was putting pressure on his spinal cord. Left untreated, it could paralyze him.
Matt’s injuries required care from a highly-specialized team, so he was brought to Providence Neuroscience Institute at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center. Dr. Nathaniel Whitney, affiliated with Providence through Inland Neurosurgery and Spine Associates, performed the complex, urgent surgery.
Putting in the work
Matt had weeks of inpatient rehabilitation ahead of him after surgery. His first instinct was to find somewhere close to his home in western Washington for rehabilitation.
“After doing our research, the clear choice was to stay in Spokane at Providence St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Medical Center,” Matt said. “This place has the best track record.”
Providence St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Medical Center is one of the most advanced rehab centers in the nation, with the treatment, technology, and experience to help patients of all ages who experience strokes, spinal cord injuries, orthopedic issues, and brain injuries.
Matt spent about a month at Providence St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Medical Center, feeling a world away from his own family, but finding unexpected comfort in his care team.
“It was humbling and rare to see people that work as a team like they do and where their sole purpose is to help others, not themselves. The teams at St. Luke’s are amazing,” Matt said.
Matt took his rehabilitation seriously, carefully following the direction of all his specialists, from physical therapy to occupational therapy to speech language pathology, and more.
“Matt was an inspiring patient because he worked so hard to get better. He really trusted us to help get him home back to his family,” said Dr. Glen House, Providence St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Medical Center Spinal Cord Injury Program Director and Matt’s physiatrist.
Healing body and soul
The quality-of-care Matt received at Providence impressed him, especially as someone who spent the last 18 years of his career working in health care labor relations and human resources.
And he noticed something else exceptional.
“Every person I worked with showed passion, compassion, and interest in me as a person, not just a patient,” Matt said. “I think they are all angels.”
Matt was discharged from Providence St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Medical Center in early November 2022. As he left, his caregivers celebrated his accomplishments.
Matt arrived at Providence St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Medical Center unable to move his legs or arms. A few weeks after his discharge, he was using a walker to get to the Thanksgiving table. Now, Matt can walk about ¾ of a mile with his walker, as he continues regular physical and occupational therapy.
Despite the difficulty of the past year, Matt remains grateful for the care he received. “I know I have a long road ahead, but I have the tools and drive I need thanks to this amazing team. Patients are extremely lucky to be here with these caregivers,” Matt said.
Learn more about Providence St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Medical Center Spinal Cord Injury Program by visiting Providence online.