Your Health Today Magazine

One Step at a Time


Steve encourages stroke patient Joseph Bruns after transporting him to the Acute Rehab gym.

Stroll the halls of St. Anthony’s Acute Rehab unit on any given Thursday and you may encounter Steve Kovach. He helps transport patients with disabling injuries to the physical therapy room and follows therapists with a wheelchair as patients practice walking. Steve also plays a larger role: that of providing hope to recently diagnosed stroke patients in need of encouragement.

“Steve is such a nice guy, so personable,” said Geri Tyrey, Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) in Acute Rehab. “He gives patients hope: you see a change in their attitudes. He lets them know there is so much to look forward to.”

That’s because Steve, 55, is an Acute Rehab alumnus. He suffered a major stroke in early 2013, causing problems with the peripheral vision in his left eye, leaving him unable to sit up in bed without falling over, and able to move his left foot only slightly. An information technology specialist for IBM, the once-proficient mathematician had problems performing simple subtraction. He selected St. Anthony’s Acute Rehab unit because it was close to his family’s Oakville home and because the unit allowed pet visits. Steve had just finished a lengthy hospital stay and missed his dog, Chloe.

St. Anthony’s Acute Rehab facility is one of only four in the metropolitan area to be accredited by the international, not-for-profit Commission on Accreditation for Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). The process is extensive and arduous, with more than 200 compliance measures.

“The CARF accreditation is the gold standard of the rehab profession,” said Jennifer Page, M.D., Steve’s doctor in Acute Rehab. “Through the continuum of care we provide at St. Anthony’s, Steve has been able to continue his progress. He was extremely motivated and worked hard to achieve his goals. I think it’s a real testament that he wanted to give back to the community and serve as a volunteer.”

Initially, Steve required a mechanical device to get him into a standing position. By the time he left Acute Rehab, one month later, he was walking 400 feet.

“The therapists here, to put it mildly, were phenomenal in treating me,” he said. “I continued my therapy with St. Anthony’s outpatient program from March to September, going through all aspects of therapy.”

Despite a battle with depression, common with stroke patients, he succeeded in maintaining a positive outlook and was willing to work hard to recover, said Kathy Kovach, Steve’s wife of 29 years, who provided much support to her husband.

Today, Steve is back to playing golf, drives familiar routes in his car, works out, and is active in aerobics and other exercise courses. He’s also active in St. Anthony’s Stroke Club and as a volunteer “to try to give back and help those patients who are going through what I went through.

“If they say you’re going to go home in a wheelchair, don’t accept it,” he advises stroke survivors. “Set your goals high.”

If you or a loved one have been affected by stroke, St. Anthony’s offers support when you need a helping hand or someone to talk with about your situation.


Sponsored by St. Anthony’s Acute Rehab Unit, the Stroke Club is 65 members strong and meets at 10:30 a.m. on the second and fourth Wednesday of the month
in the eighth-floor hospital conference room. The group offers support for caregivers and survivors. Special events are planned in the spring and fall and during the holidays.

“It is the most welcoming group of people I’ve ever encountered,” said Geri Tyrey, Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) in Acute Rehab. For more information, call Geri at (314) 525-4561.


This group of experienced stroke survivors turned mentors is an excellent resource for patients and their families who are trying to understand the
effects of stroke. The group meets the first and third Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to noon in the Acute Rehab Unit multipurpose room. Call (314) 525-4561 for