Justin Guberman doing physical therapy

Stepping into the kitchen at a friend’s house to get a drink, Justin Guberman’s legs suddenly gave out.

“My friend heard me fall and rushed right in, but by the time she got there I was already standing up,” he says.

Guberman, 63 at the time, waved away her offer to call 911; she called anyway.

“We’ve known each other for 10 years and every time I tell her to do something, she does the opposite,” he says laughing. “Thank God, because it saved my life.”

Guberman was walking and talking when fire rescue arrived just four minutes later. He was thinking about going to an urgent care facility the next day to get checked out.

“I felt okay,” he says.

The medics on the scene convinced him to go to the emergency room, just to be safe. On the way there, the lighthearted mood of the ride abruptly turned serious.

“I was in the back of the ambulance talking to one of the EMTs when all of a sudden he leaned over to the driver and the next thing I knew, lights were flashing, sirens were going, and we were racing through the streets.”

When Guberman arrived at the ER at Jackson North Medical Center, he was falling in and out of consciousness and hallucinating. Doctors determined he’d suffered a massive aneurysm.

He was transferred to Jackson Memorial Hospital to undergo emergency neurosurgery with Dr. Eric Peterson, UHealth neurosurgeon. The prognosis was grim.

“They told my family I had a two percent chance of survival,” he recalled. “They told them to make final arrangements.”

Guberman woke up after surgery unable to speak or move the right side of his body, and with marked cognitive decline.

“I didn’t know what had happened or where I was, and I couldn’t ask anyone to tell me,” he says. “I was petrified.”

That was October 2015, and the start of what would become a long and arduous road to recovery.

Guberman remained at Jackson Memorial for nearly two months, before being transferred to Jackson Memorial Long-Term Care Center. His medical team knew the intensive therapeutic care he needed could be found there, but they didn’t know how far he would be able to progress.

“He had gone from being an independent member of the community to someone who couldn’t do anything on his own,” said physical therapist Tracilyn Urruela, director of rehab services at Jackson North.

Over the next seven months, Guberman received physical, occupational, and speech therapy, and went from silent and immobile to being able to get around in a wheelchair and on occasion with a walker. And while he hadn’t fully regained his speech, he was able to communicate clearly with those around him.

“The therapy care at Jackson Long-Term was phenomenal,” he said. “I saw my neurosurgeon about eight months after the operation and he couldn’t believe how far I had come.”

Guberman then moved to an assisted living facility and was offered the option of continuing rehabilitative treatment as an outpatient in the aftercare program at Jackson North Rehab Services, something he was reluctant to do.

“I didn’t think I’d get as much from that as I had been getting from inpatient therapies,” says Guberman. “I was wrong.”

The Jackson North rehab team helped Guberman make incredible strides. When he started, he was still largely confined to a wheelchair, able to stand with a cane for just a few seconds.

“Now, he’s doing nearly three miles per hour on the treadmill, which is very aggressive,” says physical therapy aide Michael Hearne, who has been working with Guberman since he joined aftercare. “He’s one of the most highly motivated members of the program.”

Today, Guberman lives independently and gets around on his own. He’s talkative, outgoing, and relishing a life well-lived. Thinking back to that day in October 2015, he’s amazed at what he’s accomplished.

“They joke that I should be the poster child for Jackson Health and I’m fine with that,” he says. “To say that the care I’ve received there is life-changing would be a gross understatement.”