Posted on August 27, 2021

Team mindset helps Matthew overcome amputation, stroke and COVID-19

A few months ago, Matthew Stallman didn’t believe he’d be able to enjoy doing things he loved ever again. But with a little help and a lot of determination, Matthew set a goal to compete in a 5K and reached it far sooner than he thought possible.

The 43-year-old Traverse City man developed a bone infection in May 2020 that led to amputation of his left leg below the knee. About two months later, doctors learned the infection had spread, and he was readmitted to Munson Medical Center in Traverse City for care. The infection affected his spine and an area around his heart, and Matthew had a stroke. He also was diagnosed with COVID-19.

Later that month, Matthew underwent open heart surgery at University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor. He returned to Traverse City about a week later to begin inpatient rehabilitation at Mary Free Bed at Munson Healthcare, but he was discouraged by the multitude of health crises he’d endured.

“There was a time I had just given up,” Matthew said. “I thought I was just waiting to die.”

His Mary Free Bed rehabilitation team helped Matthew discover he has a fulfilling life ahead of him.

“That’s where it’s important for me as a physician to come alongside you and let you know that we’re here and that you can still do this,” said Dr. Elizabeth Spaulding, a Mary Free Bed physician who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation.

It was the spark Matthew needed.

“That’s when I started buckling down and looked forward to getting into my therapy each day, because I had a goal to set,” he said.

Matthew battled through the pain and other side effects of his condition with the help of Dr. Spaulding and his team of therapists and nurses, calling it a “team effort.” He graduated from the inpatient program Jan. 13. By April, he decided he was going to run a 5K and signed up for a July event during the National Cherry Festival.

In this video, Matthew and his Mary Free Bed at Munson clinicians share how they worked together to reach that goal: