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Restoring hope, sharing beauty

Often the road to hope and recovery is a maze with twists and turns that move forward then backward. Vern Criner has been navigating his maze for 4 years. Vern has suffered setbacks, surgeries and despair. But, his times at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital have provided steps forward toward hope.

Vern was a florist by trade for 42 years, but flowers aren’t his only artistic medium. A painter and event planner, Vern loves bringing beauty to others. Over the last 4 years, quadraparesis (paralysis of arms and legs) left him in an electric wheelchair. He couldn’t walk. He couldn’t create. His health deteriorated as he endured a number of surgeries.

After a surgery in August 2009, Vern asked to rehabilitate at Mary Free Bed. He was at his lowest point when he was admitted to inpatient care.

“I had lost hope,” Vern explained. “I even considered taking my own life.”

The 5 weeks of care and compassion he received at Mary Free Bed turned him around.

Vern started with physical therapy and occupational therapy. He thrived under the care of Dr. Bloom. After mentioning to his occupational therapist he had been a florist, she connected Vern with recreational therapy.

“The therapists were demanding and kept pushing me,” Vern remembered. “At the same time, all of them were giving me hope. I started to think that maybe I could walk again.”

In between therapy, he started to paint again. “When they put the paintbrush in my hand, I thought, ‘I think I can.’ I told my therapist that I would be so disappointed if it turned out like a third grade painting. It turned out great and she took me to get a frame. She even asked me to enter 3 pieces in the art show at Mary Free Bed.”

Vern came home with new hope and confidence. But there was a turn in his maze to recovery.

After an additional surgery, he fell. Needing to relearn to walk, Vern said, “I felt I had lost everything again, and I lost hope.”

Through additional therapy, Vern started back with the use of a walker. When they gave him his cane, he started to believe he might recover. This time he returned home walking with a cane!

The next step forward for Vern was when he was able to create beauty for others.

“At home I designed a flower arrangement for myself,” Vern said. “I created a cornucopia for the social room at my living facility, and I designed a silk flower arrangement for my neighbor.”

Forward and back, the maze of recovery is ongoing for Vern. Having been told he wouldn’t walk, he has walked 280 feet without any aid. Having lost the use of his arms, he returned to painting and creating beauty to share with others.

Vern was just released from Mary Free Bed after recovering from another procedure. The therapy and support he received from the staff at Mary Free Bed strengthen him to move forward.

Vern explained, “Mary Free Bed has saved my life by giving me hope and giving me freedom.”

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