Left to right: Sara Kiedinger, speech therapist; Robert Venditti; James Jones, physical therapist assistant; and Vothvinick Jamilla, occupational therapist

By Ailaine Cruz, director of rehab services


In January 2017, Robert Venditti went to the hospital due to severe respiratory distress.


In a matter of minutes, Venditti went into a coma. He underwent intubation and was put on a mechanical ventilator to survive. He suffered multiple medical systems failures and had to stay at a specialty hospital for three months.


Venditti was transferred to Life Care Center of Orlando, Florida, for more intensive therapy in March 2017. The doctors initially thought that he had a poor prognosis for any meaningful recovery.


Upon therapy evaluation, Venditti required total assistance for all aspects of living. He was unable to walk or stand and required assistance for repositioning. He had little control or strength in his arms and hands, making it hard for him to even change the channel on the television or use the phone. He couldn’t eat or drink anything and had a feeding tube in place for all nutritional needs. Lastly, he had a very breathy voice due to prolonged intubation, making it difficult for people to understand him.


Despite all of this, Venditti had the will to defy the odds and get better. Physical, occupational and speech therapists quickly established a collaborative plan of care as aggressive as his desire to improve.


PTs started with electrical stimulation at bedside to activate the atrophied muscles in Venditti’s legs with the intent to get his muscles strong enough for standing. OTs began with having him sit on the edge of the bed to improve trunk control and balance, and arm exercises to improve strength and coordination. And the speech therapist began with an oral motor exercise program and neuromuscular electrical stimulation, or VitalStim® therapy, to increase strength of the muscles involved in swallowing.


“Robert was extremely motivated to once again stand, walk, talk and eat,” said Sara Kiedinger, his speech therapist. “He was always willing to participate in any task his therapists planned for him because he knew it would help him improve.”


Venditti himself said, “I have been pleased with everything at Life Care. From the very beginning, they were very encouraging, which gave me the motivation to get better. Life Care is the best facility around, and I would recommend it to anyone in need of care or therapy.”


In two months’ time, Venditti has indeed defied the odds. Through intense physical, occupational and speech therapy he has regained the ability to stand, walk with the use of a walker, talk and be understood, eat whatever he wants and put in his own contact lenses. He is now able to climb 17 steps, which is necessary for him to go home. His quality of life has improved greatly and will continue to improve.


Venditti is scheduled to return home to his wife on May 17.