Patient Stories

Secret Service Member Returns To Unity To Thank Care Team

Fifteen years after receiving expert care from the Golisano Restorative Neurology & Rehabilitation Center team, Stephen Lillis returned to express his gratitude face to face.

Nov. 27, 2023 5   min read

White patient smiles while taking photo with a white female doctor. Doctor is holding a Christmas CD album

As a captain with the U.S. Secret Service Uniformed Division, Stephen Lillis knows about the importance of functioning as a team and serving others. He and 12 others were recently honored with the Department of Homeland Security Secretary’s Award for Valor for administering first aid to four people who were struck by lightning outside the White House in August 2022.

But nearly 15 years earlier, Stephen was the one who needed a team to provide him with care – for a very different reason. It led to him crossing paths with the inpatient acute rehabilitation team at Rochester Regional Health, ultimately, returning to Rochester this fall.

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Comprehensive care

In January 2008, Stephen experienced inflammation of the brain – known as encephalitis. While the cause was unknown, the swelling was so severe he was placed in a medically-induced coma to limit its effects. Stephen was initially treated at Johns Hopkins Hospital but was brought to Rochester to continue his treatment and recovery at the Unity Acute Rehabilitation Brain Injury Program at the St. Mary’s Medical Campus (now the Golisano Restorative Neurology & Rehabilitation Center) and be closer to his mother.

As Stephen was brought out of the coma in February, he was unable to walk, talk, or swallow on his own. His care team assessed his abilities and started him on a regimen of physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy.

A white man with a mustache wearing a red and white checkered shirt standing in front of a white wall that says Unity Acute Rehabilitation Brain Injury Program in blue lettering

By the end of March, Stephen had made significant progress and was able to walk with assistance, hold regular conversation, and perform everyday tasks. This allowed him to transition from an inpatient unit to recovery at home. Six months later, he had regained a lot of his original independence. By February 2010, he was back at work in Washington, D.C. on light duty, continuously improving. He resumed full duty in summer 2011.

A man using a walker walks alongside another man down a hospital hallway

“My care was outstanding,” Stephen said. “I was able to resume my normal activities with the expertise and assistance that they provided.”

A happy reunion

After returning to life in Virginia for more than a decade, Stephen made a brief trip up to New York to visit a friend. On his way, he decided to stop by the Golisano Restorative Neurology & Rehabilitation Center to revisit his care team.

White patient smiles while talking with two female providers
White patient smiles while taking a photo with two providers - one man and one woman

Stephen first visited the outpatient facility where he had worked with occupational therapist Diana Hauman and neuropsychologist Marc Gaudette, MD. He was also pleased to visit with familiar faces from the team, including Jason Wyant, Occupational Therapist; Lauren Holland, Speech Language Pathologist; and William Schneider, MD, Neuropsychologist.

While visiting, Stephen took the time to thank each of them for their compassion, professionalism, and determination in helping him recover.

“Without their assistance, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Stephen said.

NEXT STEPS Rebuilding Lives - Together

Our therapy teams at Golisano Restorative Neurology & Rehabilitation Center help patients to regain the ability to engage in activities that have personal meaning and value. Each patient works with our team through an individualized plan to develop, improve or restore independence.

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Golisano Restorative Neurology and Rehabilitation Center
1555 Long Pond Road
3rd Floor
Rochester, New York 14626
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