Stroke Survivor Thomas Firth: Putting in the Work

As Thomas Firth and his son made their way into the Wing 100 gym for what he thought was a simple off-boarding meeting at the end of his stay at the NRHN Inpatient Hospital in Salem, NH, he was instead greeted by the cheers and familiar faces of the entire nursing and rehab staff that had helped him through his long road to recovery. The surprise seemed to catch him completely off-guard, and he was left beaming with pride and happiness while his son pushed him into the gym to join the group.  After suffering a debilitating stroke that left him unable to articulate/speak clearly, move his limbs, and swallow a regular diet, Thomas Firth and his family were left scrambling for a rehabilitation clinic that they knew would treat him well.

“I used NRHN for my knee, in outpatient, and I had a couple of people who were very good. They knew because they brought me – my son Brian – so when I had the stroke they knew where to bring me,” Tom recalled. “There wasn’t a bad therapist in the group. Even if I had somebody covering for somebody else, he or she was always just as good… They were very professional and very thorough with what they did. They taught me that if you work hard, you’ll get rewarded.”


Hard Work and Positivity

During his stay, his therapists were consistently shocked by how willing Tom was to put in the extra work and meet every new challenge with optimism and determination.

“Tom demonstrates the power of hard work, dedication, and resiliency. He continuously set personal goals throughout his time at Northeast Rehab and did whatever he could in his power to achieve them. Whether it was remembering to do a chin tuck with every nectar thick liquid sip he took at a meal to advance to a thin liquid or over articulating his words during a complex conversation to achieve the highest level of intelligibility. However, what makes T.F so special is that despite how exhausted or sore he felt after a long day of intense rehab, he always managed to make every person in the hallway smile or laugh with his infectious humor. It has been a pleasure seeing Tom grow throughout his recovery.”

Sonia Fernandes, M.S Candidate | Speech-Language Pathology | Class of 2018 |MGH Institute of Health Professions

“Tom has made tremendous gains during his stay at NRH!  He has graduated from a Puree/Honey thick liquid diet to swallowing a regular diet without difficulty! His word finding and articulation have improved to >95% accurate! But I’m most impressed with Tom’s positive outlook! He works tirelessly and still finds the energy to encourage other patients with his successes and his motivating words! No longer self-conscious, Tom has a joke or a word of praise for everyone he passes! We call him “the Mayor” because he seems to know everybody!”

Kathleen Earle MS, CCC-SLP

“Tom was a great surprise and joy to work with throughout his stay here. When he first admitted he was quiet and reserved, but as he progressed in his recovery he’s definitely come out of his shell.  He is enthusiastic and participates in all (and extra) therapies.   When I walk in in the mornings, he always has a smile on his face in dining group, making other patients laugh and encouraging them to work hard to get good results.  He always says, “If I don’t put the work in, nobody else will.”  I am so proud of the progress he has made and can’t wait to see the next steps in his recovery!”

Vivian Chau
Inpatient PT

Saying Goodbye

Throughout the entire graduation celebration, Tom’s huge smile never faltered. He laughed, joked, and took pictures with his entire rehab team. When the festivities had come to an end, we only had one thing left to ask him: What’s next?

“I’m getting out tomorrow and then it’s off to outpatient after that. Getting used to my leg and my arm – getting them back to 100% and live my life. To my rehab team- keep doing the same things you’re doing. Show people the way. Be polite like you always are and get the most out of your patients!”