On a bright summer morning Walter McTague stood firmly on the first hole at his golf club, slowly raised his driver, and swung hard into new life.
Just four months earlier the Glastonbury resident's major organs were shutting down, the result of a burst heart valve. A dramatic loss of circulation to his legs required five modified amputations to his feet. Meanwhile, his kidneys were shutting down. Walter's wife, Teresa, was told that should he survive, he would live out his days in a vegetative state.
The McTagues fought back. A month after Walter's somber prognosis, he was admitted to the Hospital for Special Care. Teresa had interviewed two rehabilitation hospitals before deciding on HSC. "The staff here listened well. The stakes were high and they had a plan for Walter from the start…It wasn't disability they saw, it was ability."
"The staff wanted to know who Walter was as a person," added Teresa. "They asked me who he wanted to return to as a person."
That "person" was an active father of three adult children and two young children. That "person" had retired from a highly successful career in finance and now, in his best years, loved to golf, sail and enjoy his large family.
"The staff worked with Walter passionately and spiritually," recalled Teresa. "It was a very hope-instilling process."
Customized goals were set. Several weeks of intensive physical and occupational therapy ensued. Specialized wound care preserved precious blood flow. Customized prostheses were made for his feet. Walter learned to walk again, carrying his 6'4 athletic build on crutches up and down the hospital hallways. He grinned through the pain. "I was a cheerful patient," he quipped.
Today, physical therapy continues for Walter on an outpatient basis. His outpatient visits are among over 35,000 each year at HSC, a number growing by 7 to 9 percent annually as advances in rehabilitation accelerate.
The pithy Irishman, who greets staff and physicians with mayoral flair during his hallway walks, continues to set aggressive goals for himself. He beat his deadline of returning to the golf club by one full month. He's hoping his balance will improve enough to sail his family on the Caribbean. "It's a matter of looking forward all the time," he said.
The McTagues are "giving back," with generous financial contributions so that others may receive our special care, and their time. Teresa has served on the HSC Foundation Board of Directors. Walt volunteers at the HSC Equipment Exchange one day a week.