Scott’s stroke grounded him, but now he’s flying high

Scott Hartwig, a retired Chicago O’Hare International Airport air traffic controller lives with his wife Janet in DeSoto, Illinois. He and his wife are both part of a flight crew for a WW II-era B-17 Flying Fortress that travels to air shows throughout the United States. They enjoy an active life—not only with their involvement with the air shows, but also spending their free time flying in their own personal airplanes, and keeping in touch with their two sons. Scott grew up with planes–his dad flew planes, and it just runs in his family. “We had airplanes, like some farm kids had tractors,” joked Scott.

Scott recovered from a heart attack that occurred in August of 2015. He had just been reinstated to fly at the end of November, and he was getting along pretty well. However, one chilly January evening in his Desoto home, he got up from his chair to check on a smoky fireplace to see if it had a leak. Suddenly, he felt a little lightheaded. The next thing Scott remembered was Janet leaning over him, asking him if he was alright—but Scott clearly needed help.

The Ambulance Came

An ambulance rushed him to Memorial Hospital of Carbondale (MHC) where a team of healthcare professionals, including neurologist Dr. Alejandro Hornick, determined that Scott had experienced a stroke. He stayed at MHC in the ICU/PCU for about a week, until he was stable enough to transfer and begin his recovery at the Acute Rehabilitation Center (ARC) at Herrin Hospital.

Scott said that when he first arrived at ARC, his entire left side was in paralysis after the stroke, which occurred in the right side of his brain. “I couldn’t even sit up, it took three people to sit me up in bed–and even then I would fall over,” Scott remarked. “I couldn’t even move or wiggle a finger or toe.”

With time, courage and lot of hard work, Scott slowly regained not only his ability to sit up, but also to dress himself, feed himself and finally to walk again!

Scott shared, “It was like some of the bridges in my brain had been washed out and some other bridges were still there. The rest just had to be rebuilt.”

His ARC Stay

During Scott’s five-week stay at ARC, he got to know a lot of the nurses, physical and occupational therapists and even the rehabilitation and physical medicine physicians. He mentioned the upbeat personalities of Dr. Glennon and Dr. Burchill, but he also really praised the physical and occupational therapists for their assistance in the day-to-day efforts down in the trenches as he pushed towards recovery.

“My hat’s off to the folks at ARC. I don’t even know how they decide where to start with someone like me,” proclaimed Scott.

He had this to add about physical therapist, Erica Cross, and Kelsey Miller, occupational therapist, “Erica and Kelsey are my heroes. I made the most remarkable progress while working with Erica. Throughout my stay, Erica itemized my accomplishments. Those little milestones really helped me to assess my progress. But everyone at ARC—their patience, determination and perseverance were amazing!”

So after five weeks of very hard work, Scott had finally made enough progress to hear those magic words: “It looks like you are ready to go home!” The day that Scott left Herrin Hospital’s Acute Rehabilitation Center, he was able to walk out the front doors with just the help of a cane!

Moving Forward

While Scott is continuing some outpatient therapy through Rehab Unlimited in Herrin, he has regained much of his strength. “Each day, I notice things that I can do a little better than the day before.” For now, he’s already back to providing flight instruction, but he looks forward to the day when he is cleared to rejoin his B-17 flight crew as they travel to air shows through the United States. Scott had this to say to about his stroke rehabilitation experience, “All of the people at ARC were amazing! I can’t think of any other place that I would rather have been or that would have done better!”