“Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone” ….that’s the message printed on one of the t-shirts Conover resident Larry Aiello, 68, wore during his lengthy stay at CVMC’s inpatient rehabilitation center. It was a mantra that he recalled as a driving force when speaking to attendees at this year’s Rehab Reunion.
He says, “This time last year everything was fine. It was the week before Thanksgiving and I had golfed twice that week. But late on Friday afternoon, I began having excruciating pain in my upper back and was admitted to CVMC.”
The pain grew increasingly worse and a series of tests over several days determined that Larry had a serious form of staph infection and was transferred to Wake Forest Baptist Health Center where he underwent two spinal surgeries that left him with metal rods in his spine. He was categorized a quadriplegic.
“A quadriplegic?,” he asked himself. As the former President and CEO of Corning Cable Systems, Larry found himself unable to accept this as his new normal and he began developing a strong mindset to begin facing the long road that lie ahead.
When transferred back to CVMC’s inpatient rehab center he couldn’t sit on the edge of the bed on his own and required the assistance of two therapists and a hoyer lift to get out of bed. Although he wasn’t in much physical pain, it was difficult to wrap his mind around the magnitude of his situation and he felt discouraged at times about the long road that lie ahead.
Jenny O’Neil, Physical Therapist and her staff worked with him daily to establish and create plans to help him achieve small goals such as transitioning from bed to a wheelchair. Once he tackled a goal, he started to focus on another.
“The first couple of weeks were tough,” says Larry. “Jenny had me scheduled 4 times x day, 6/7 days x week. She kept pushing me, but after about 2 weeks she said that she and I needed to have a come to Jesus meeting to work harder.”
Larry and his wife Susan moved to the Hickory area in 2002 and chose to stay here upon his retirement. A member of the Board of Catawba Valley Community College, he recently told his fellow board member CVMC CEO and President Tony Rose, “I wouldn’t be here without your hospital. Your staff made a world of difference. We are so fortunate to have such wonderful care in our community.”