Mark Crawley and family

BY G.C. ROSE

Some five years ago, Mark Crawley was incapacitated by a series of strokes.

His prognosis was bleak, says his sister, Deborah Carey.

"They told me when he was (in a Williamsburg nursing home) that he would never eat, drink or have any kind of movement at all," she said.

But today Crawley's medical forecast is much improved thanks to the staff at The Orchard Rehabilitation Center in Warsaw.

"I had been trying since 2013 to get him closer home," said Carey of her brother who is a Westmoreland County native. "With the help of (Orchard social worker) Faith (Marks) and (Orchard administrator) Pam (Doshier), we got him here in May 2015," said Carey. "Within a year's time he has been progressing very well."

"Mr. Crawley has come a long way," says Deborah Hundley, the activities director at The Orchard. "When he first arrived here he couldn't communicate or move his hands. But he has progressed to the point where he is using his hands, pointing, and dancing. He has come so far and it's just amazing what God can do. You can look at him and see God working through him."

Speech pathologist Rachel DeSando works closely with the 68-year-old Crawley.

DeSando says Crawley's progress began with something as simple as a small wave of the hands.

"It really started building a foundation and relationship with him," DeSando says. "He loves music and he listens to a '70s and '80s station on the radio all day. As soon as we turn on the radio he's moving. So, we started moving together and from that he started laughing and when he laughed his voice kinda turned on. Since then we've been working on vocalizations to get some meaningful things out. Now when he sees me the sound doesn't always come out, but he says "hey" with the shape of his lips."

DeSando also says Crawley's appetite has come full circle.

"He will eat anything on his plate," she said. "In one year he has gone from not being able to feed himself or eat very much to now feeding himself full meals, and he sure enjoys his sweets."

Moreover, DeSando says Crawley was initially a tentative patient.

"When I started working with him he was so reserved," she says. "He wouldn't communicate much or want to come out of his room."

But, via DeSando's encouraging assistance Crawley is now willing to confront his therapy challenges.

"He now tries things that he wouldn't try before," she proudly reports. "He eventually he started thinking in a new way, problem solving on his own and moving his wheelchair instead of waiting for someone to come move him."

DeSando says she made a New Year's Resolution with Crawley.

"We decided every day was going to be something better," she said. "We wrote it in a notebook. I did the dots and he traced over it. Those were his goals for this year and he has already exceeded those goals."

And now Crawley is better able to communicate by utilizing augmentative/alternative communication devices on an ipad.

"He's not able to talk yet, but we're getting him to work with the device to communicate better with staff and family," DeSando said.

She explained that the apps on the ipad feature pictures (like emojis) that allow Crawley to express himself.

"The hardest part is customizing it to his wants and his needs. It's easy to find the pictures, but the phrasing is the hardest part. Since we've used the apps, he's been more willing to communicate with the residents. His personality is shining through and that's made it easier for staff to come over and interact with him."

Concerning Mark's progress, DeSando noted that it is his determination that has enabled him to reach this point in his rehabilitation.

"It's a two-way street," DeSando emphasized. "We've worked with him very hard. The staff has been very supportive of the therapy and the diet recommendations I've made. And, the activities folks here have been wonderful. He's now to the point that he's starting to click and do things on his own."

Meanwhile, Carey expressed appreciation for the work being done by The Orchard's staff.

"I am very appreciative," she said. "It's like a load has been lifted off me. The Orchard, its administrator and staff, I thank them so very much. They have worked with me in every way."

"He has exceeded all our expectations," DeSando says. "We have certain expectations for people healing when they come in at a certain level. With his level of motivation, family support and staff support, he has exceeded all expectations and is continuing to make this remarkable progress. It has inspired us all."

Published: September 19, 2016