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