Getting His Feet Back on the Ground

Matt Isbell hung by his fingertips to his second-story balcony, 18 feet above the ground. His grip was slipping, and his options were limited. He saw his tools and ladder beneath him – the ladder he had been standing on while he was pressure washing his antebellum home’s exterior that late April day in 2017.

Matt “kept looking down, and didn’t think the ground was that far,” so he chose to let go. His right leg hit the first patio step. His femur shattered. He was rushed to UofL Hospital, where he was told he would have a long, difficult road to recovery. There was no guarantee that he would ever walk unassisted again. Matt was reluctant to seek rehabilitation treatment due to a bout with pneumonia from his hospital stay, until his youngest daughter, Rachel Hunt stepped in.

“Once I realized the severity of my dad’s injury, I thought it just screamed ‘rehab,’” Rachel said. She helped her dad understand that the bridge between hospital and home could be painlessly navigated with help, which is why they turned to the Sam Swope Care Center at Masonic Home Louisville.

Matt was aware of Masonic Homes because he is a Mason himself. Once at the Sam Swope Care Center, Matt received treatment for his pneumonia and began physical therapy for his leg. Rachel remembered “there were some tough days, but the staff’s kindness and encouragement kept my dad going. The campus is also absolutely beautiful, so that really helped in getting my dad outside and moving.”

“I don’t know how you could have any better care than I had at Masonic Homes,” said Matt, who describes himself as an extravert. “I enjoyed the comradery and companionship. All of those are things you need from people.”

His daughter noticed the friendship between her father and his caregivers, too. “He didn’t just want to be a patient, he wanted to have a connection with each of them… They made it easy for him to do that.”

Within one week of his release from the Sam Swope Care Center, Matt was back outside on their tractor mowing their 17-acre lawn and tending to their small farm. Just a little more than a year after the fall, Matt and his wife, Barbara, their two daughters, sons-in-law and four grandchildren made a trip to Disney World in Orlando to celebrate Matt and Barbara’s 50th wedding anniversary.

“If he hadn’t have gone to rehab, there is no way he could have gotten back on his tractor, and there is absolutely no way that we would have been able to go to Disney,” said Rachel. “The injury could have been the end of his independence.”

Rachel estimated they spent 12 hours and 10 miles a day walking through the park. Incredibly, Matt walked without assistance, a limp or pain medications. “Here we are a year later and I don’t have any difficulty getting around,” he said. “I’m not like I was at 20 years old, but I’m doing great.”

The trip to Disney World showcased how well Matt has recovered from his dramatic fall just a little over a year ago. In fact, experiencing the Tomorrowland Astro Orbiter, a futuristic rocket attraction, with her father and son meant more to Rachel than she would have expected.

To get into their seats on the ride during the fireworks one evening, they had to ascend stairs, bridge a crevice and lower themselves into the cockpit, built like a deep bathtub. “I turned around and my dad is finagling himself without any problems into his seat next to my son,” said Rachel.

“One of the best memories I’ll always have with my father is being in the Astro Orbiter during the fireworks on Valentine’s Day,” said Rachel. “There is no way I could have that memory if not for his care through rehab.”

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