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Joe E. is a born explorer who has always lived life to the fullest. As a telecommunications engineer contractor, he travels all over the country creating systems to solve large-scale communication problems. During his free time, he is out on the open road on his beloved Harley-Davidson motorcycle and he loves his bike so much that he makes a yearly 18-hour journey to South Dakota for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

2023 was different, though. One day, Joe was zipping through traffic, and the next day his health took an unexpected turn. Joe was struggling to breathe. However, his condition worsened due to several respiratory complications. First, his doctors diagnosed him with pneumonia but, not long after, he was also battling sepsis and a pleural effusion. As his condition worsened, he had to undergo dialysis and be placed on a ventilator in a medically induced coma to allow his body to heal. Joe was very sick for seven long months.

Joe was a bike guy, though, and bike guys are tough. He’d learned how to keep his balance, master the clutch, and navigate traffic during rush hour with ease. He knew how to survive and he was determined to survive this. After spending half a year in numerous healthcare facilities, Joe’s team discharged him from the hospital.

Joe came to Reunion where he committed to not only his own survival but to living life to the fullest again. At Reunion Rehabilitation Hospital in Phoenix, Joe’s team knew he needed specialized care and they were determined to get him back on the road. At that time, Joe had been on a ventilator and a trach collar for over nine months and had recently begun learning to breathe again. At Reunion, Joe not only needed to keep breathing, but he needed to reclaim his strength and relearn critical daily tasks.

He had his work cut out for him, he says: "I had to rediscover all the things we often take for granted like brushing [my] teeth, taking a shower, and getting dressed." Still, Joe pressed on, reclaiming not only his strength but his life.

“So many individuals at Reunion played a crucial role in my physical and mental well-being,” Joe says. Registered respiratory therapist Dena Roach, for example, worked with him throughout his rehabilitation and, in her mind, "Joe's arrival at Reunion Rehabilitation Hospital was a turning point.” Dena was even standing beside him when the hospital removed his tracheostomy tube. She describes it as “a moment of pure joy.” Joe demonstrated “unwavering determination, hard work, and patience [and, just as he had in the hospital]” Dana says, “he defied all expectations” at Reunion. Joe has since left Reunion Phoenix, but Dena still feels proud of his recovery, “witnessing his journey was a privilege [that ended with the ultimate blessing . . . seeing [him] reunited with the love of his life [and] going home with a new lease on life.”

Today, Joe is back to living that life to the fullest, back to his garage, back to tinkering with his bike, while working his way back into the saddle. Lately, the open road seems to be calling his name and he’s on his way to gearing up, kickstarting, and riding his way to new adventures. Since learning to breathe again, the air in his lungs feels better than ever.

Reunion is committed to improving the lives of all of our patients; to learn more about how a Reunion can help you, visit our website by clicking the link below:


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