After Catastrophic Fall from 50-Foot Tree, Miami Palm Frond Artist is on His Way to Recovery
A decade’s debt paid in kindness comes full circle at Jackson’s Perdue Medical Center when patient shares a connection with social worker
For more than 30 years, Dale Silvia was a constant at Miami’s Bayside Marketplace, crafting pieces of art made of palm fronds – items like baskets, flowers, and hats that he would sell to locals and tourists. In November, the then 60-year-old Silvia suffered a catastrophic injury when he fell from a 50-foot-tree while trying to collect materials for his art.
With traumatic injuries to his head, jaw, wrists and legs, and fragmenting on both of his kneecaps, Silvia was rushed to Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital. Surgeons restructured his kneecaps with wires and screws, but the multidisciplinary approach to rebuild his life continued when he was transferred a month later to Jackson’s Perdue Medical Center, a long-term care facility in Cutler Bay.
“I was physically unable to move and overwhelmed by the trauma of it all,” recalls Silvia. “I couldn’t take care of myself and I didn’t think I’d be able to walk again.”
Silvia felt discouraged about his future. But a fateful encounter would bring the generosity of his past to become the catalyst for his recovery.
Perdue’s social services director Sami Rudnick-Hoover, LCSW, came by one morning to assess her new resident, asking questions about his life. She learned that Silvia showcased his art at Bayside Marketplace in Miami for more than three decades – a surprising coincidence as Rudnick-Hoover also shared the same stage during her graduate years playing music with her band for locals and tourists at the downtown Miami destination.
“Each time we played at Bayside, this gentleman would give me a rose or a fun animal made of palm fronds to bring home to my kids,” said Rudnick-Hoover. “As a student with three toddlers at home, I never had money, but he would say, ‘it’s ok, some day you will find a way to pay me back’.”
Rudnick-Hoover was shocked to realize Silvia was the palm frond artist who made an impression on her so many years ago. To this day, she has held on to many pieces of his palm frond artwork, which she displays in her home. She recently took a photo to show Silvia that she had kept his creations all these years later.
“I can finally repay him as his social worker by working with the team at Perdue to provide him the best care possible,” said Rudnick-Hoover. “We were determined to get Dale back on his feet with therapy, and by leveraging his love for art and music, it could really support him physically and spiritually.”
It would be a gradual process to recover but the staff was determined.
“We used all kinds of tools to help him regain his strength and movement in his arms, hands, and legs,” said Kathy Anglin, director of occupational therapy at Perdue Medical Center. “Staff began to bring palm fronds to incorporate weaving into his occupational therapy, so that he could continue working his craft using his fingers and hands.”
Once he was able to use his hands again, he began playing the guitar for staff as a token of gratitude for their compassion. He also made them new creations with his palm fronds.
“My therapists and nursing team have all been extraordinary, they never gave up on me,” said Silvia. “I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to play again, and now I play every day. They’ve been my anchor through the storm.”
Not only did they help him regain strength to use his hands and legs, his therapists and social services staff got him new clothes, a dental plan, vocational rehabilitation, and lastly, a transition post-discharge home, something he has not had for over three decades.
“With the assistance of Jackson’s Early Discharge Program (EDP), we found an Assisted Living Facility in the Wynwood Art District, picked specifically for his talents,” said Rudnick-Hoover. “I feel that I made good on my promise to pay him back.”
Silvia will be discharged this Tuesday, June 22, just one week after celebrating his 61st birthday.
“I am thrilled! Perdue gave me a restart to my life,” said Silvia. “They taught me I have blessings – there is nothing I can do to express the appreciation I have for their efforts. And they do it so graciously every day for so many people.”
Dale Silvia, patient; physicians, nurses, therapists and support staff from Perdue Medical Center.
Tuesday, June 22, from 1:30 to 2 p.m
Jackson Memorial Perdue Medical Center
119590 Old Cutler Rd.
Cutler Bay, FL 33157
Media can park in the facility’s parking lot
Pictures of patient: https://bit.ly/2TTYqWc