FHW Primary Logo Full Color On White

How FHW Got Tom Back To Dancing

It’s not a mirage in Fruita at the FHW Hospital. There really are long-term hospital beds for patients who need a little more time to heal, a little more rehabilitative treatment, and a little more rest before going home. People recovering from a major surgery, a stroke, a traumatic brain injury, a car crash, the list goes on. These patients routinely choose the Family Health West Hospital for their long-term intensive rehabilitative healing care.

One such patient, Tom Ritzdorf, was an active retiree who experienced a traumatic brain injury incident that, initially, his family believed would leave Tom with a devastating minimal existence. Medical professionals initially gave little hope for outcomes that would be anything above a poor quality of life. After those first few weeks of intensive care, Tom was transferred to Family Health West. At the time, the medical professionals were all telling Lisa Ritzdorf, Tom’s wife, that he would never walk again and he would never move his right arm. 

L to R: Valerie P, FHW Hospital Rehabilitation Clinic, Tom Ritzdorf, and Dr. Korrey Klein, FHW CEO.

An intensive rehabilitative schedule was established, and ultimately, Tom shared with staff that his goal would be to dance with his wife again. One of Tom’s primary challenges was balance and walking. Dancing seemed so far out of his reach in those early days.

To Tom’s benefit and all the patients who make the choice to recover and heal at Family Health West, the nurse-to-patient ratio is low – with about five patients to every nurse. Patients who need ongoing blood work, radiology updates, thrive being close to family and friends who can visit and other in-house services so patients don’t have to transfer out of our facility for other medical procedures throughout the healing process.

Rehabilitative therapy services are often done in the patient’s bed or room. Still, there is an in-hospital gym for therapy, an outpatient therapy gym, an adaptive vehicle for driving, and even a pool available for aquatic therapy. Patients consistently thrive knowing they will continue their outpatient therapy with the same therapists, in some of the same spaces, and on the same equipment. There are so many changes during the long-term recovery process, but one consistency is the rehabilitative therapy team.

As Tom grew stronger, he continued to improve. One of his nurses during his inpatient stay was Glenda Hamer-Garlitz, BSN/RN. As Tom grew stronger, healed, and the opportunity presented itself he and Glenda took a practice dance in his hospital room. Then, the day came when Tom was ready to twirl his bride. That was also the same day he was released to go home. A video was captured of the meaningful dance between Tom and Lisa, and just viewing the dance video now brings water to the eyes.

He ran a few miles with his therapist during Tom’s outpatient rehabilitation therapy. A few months before coming to FHW, Tom was told he might never walk again. The wins kept coming Tom’s way through grit, determination, and hard work. Lisa says the hands-on and intensive therapy Tom received at Family Health West changed their lives.

“You all not only helped him regain movement in his right arm, but for the last year, he has been taking piano lessons!” Lisa said.

Tom and Lisa have since moved back to the Front Range of Colorado, where they continue to dance and thrive. They remain friends with Glenda, and together, they enjoy each other’s company on a regular basis.

If you or a loved one think transitional care is a good fit for healing, where intensive care is no longer required but going home isn’t a feasible option yet, consider the treatment options at Family Health West. For more information about FHW Transitional Care, visit https://fhw.org/services/transitional-care/.

Share the Story!