Healthy You - Every Day

Inpatient Rehabilitation Center Helps Easton Man Bounce Back from Accident

Ron Sigafoos wasn’t sure what was going to happen to him after a terrible accident on I-78 in June 2022

On a typical workday during the summer of 2023, Lauren Bostick, RN, was enjoying a slice from an impromptu pizza celebration in the Inpatient Rehabilitation Center (IRC) at Lehigh Valley Hospital–Cedar Crest. Then a man walked into the IRC break room extending a thank-you card in her direction.

“I didn’t recognize him at first,” says the Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) nurse. “Then I realized it was Ron Sigafoos, who was a patient with us about a year before. He looked so different, so much better, it was amazing.”

Devastating accident

On June 27, 2022, the Easton man, now 70 years old, was driving his SUV along Interstate 78 going home from his part-time job. Suddenly, a 25-pound piece of metal came off the tractor-trailer in front of him and crashed through his windshield. Sigafoos doesn’t remember much after that.

“My dad suffered so much damage to his face that it required extensive reconstruction,” says Ron’s daughter, Ashley Sigafoos. “He had a brain bleed, a broken sternum and a broken clavicle. He was in a coma for 10 days.”

Ron’s recovery begins

Sigafoos arrived at the IRC to begin therapy on July 20, 2022, with his jaw wired shut, a tracheostomy tube to assist breathing, a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy tube (PEG) for feeding, and a telemetry monitor to observe his heart rate and electrical activity. “I didn’t know where I was or why I was there,” Sigafoos says. “And I didn’t want to know.”

Bostick spends her nearly 13-hour shifts tending to the needs of rehab patients. Sigafoos went through physical, occupational and speech therapy for more than two weeks.

“I had to learn to walk again, how to get in and out of bed, how to go up and down stairs, a lot of the things we all take for granted,” Sigafoos says. “But I was determined to do it. I wanted to go home, and I couldn’t do that until I could accomplish all those things.”

Swallowing and speaking again

His head injuries also left Sigafoos with facial weakness, memory difficulties and distorted speech. He also had difficulty swallowing. LVHN speech-language pathologist Doris Golebiewski was called in to assist.

“We evaluated Ron with the hope of initiating a full liquid diet,” Golebiewski says. “On the first day, he had his first sip of water in a long time. His immediate response was ‘You’re my number 1 therapist since you gave me ice cold water.’ ”

Golebiewski was able to place a speaking valve at the tracheostomy insertion point to help him communicate more effectively, and the results were almost instantaneous.

“It worked so well he was speaking often with staff and his two daughters [Ashley and Heather] regularly,” Golebiewski says. His success expedited the removal of the tracheostomy.

“That was a big thing for Ron,” Bostick says. “When he first arrived, he was asking us if we could remove some of the tubes. The day we removed the telemetry he told me I was his number 1 therapist.”

Sigafoos remembers that fondly. “Then they both asked me which one was my number 1 therapist,” he says. “Honestly, I’m so grateful to both of them.”

Ready for home and steak dinner

Sigafoos continuously practiced oral range of motion exercises in addition to his physical and occupational therapy. By the time he went home on Aug. 2, 2022, he was well on his way to recovery.

“You could see his confidence growing each day.” Golebiewski says. “Considering what he had gone through, he gave his best effort throughout his time with us. After his discharge, he worked diligently once his jaw was no longer wired shut. His goal was to eat corn on the cob and filet mignon, and he achieved that.”

Years ago, the Sigafoos family embarked on a national tour of major league baseball stadiums. After Sigafoos’ wife, Kim, passed away, the tour was discontinued. But Sigafoos and his daughter, Ashley, resumed the tour following his recovery from the accident.

“It was something my dad always wanted to do,” Ashley Sigafoos says. “Last summer, we got to stadiums in Detroit, Milwaukee, Minnesota (Minneapolis), Kansas City, St. Louis and Cincinnati. This coming summer, we are going to California to see stadiums in San Diego, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Oakland and San Francisco.” 

Words aren’t enough

Sigafoos has some lingering physical effects from the accident and occasional memory problems, but he believes he’ll eventually be back to his old self. He’s returned to his volunteer position as an assistant softball coach at Shawnee Middle School in Easton, helping with the pitchers.

“It was so good to see everybody again at the IRC when we went back to visit,” Sigafoos says. “How do you begin to thank those wonderful people?”

Bostick says just seeing Ron’s big smile was more than enough.

Inpatient Rehabilitation

If your rehabilitation requires more intensive care, the inpatient rehab programs at Lehigh Valley Health Network may be right for you.

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