Published on June 11, 2020

Nathan Kilburg's Recovery Story

On April 4, 2020, Nathan Kilburg was knocked down and pinned under a skid loader on his farm near Preston, Iowa. He underwent emergency surgery to repair or fuse four lumbar vertebrae. The spinal cord injury left Nathan with little feeling and no movement from the waist down. After nine days in Iowa City, he was transferred to the Rehab Nursing Unit at GMC-West Central Park to begin physical therapy.

“When he came to us, he hadn’t done a lot of mobility yet. We taught him the basics to start out,” said physical therapist Janel Kelly. “How to roll in bed, sit up and lay down. Eventually, we were able to get him up standing at the parallel bars, and he’s progressed to the point where he’s now able to walk with leg braces and a walker with someone by his side. He’s come a long way.”

“Nate is one of those patients who is not only self-motivating, but also inspirational to other patients,” added Kim Teel, Administrative Level III RN-Charge, Rehab Nursing Unit. “Often, when he was done with his therapy he would seek out other patients to spend time with and encourage them. We really appreciate him for his acts of kindness and support.”

Nathan Kilburg leaves the hospital

Nathan was discharged from the hospital May 1. Staff from the unit and other departments lined the second floor hallway leading to the south entrance. They clapped and fist-bumped him as he passed in his wheelchair, heading for an emotional reunion with his wife and two young daughters waiting just outside the doors. Because of COVID-19 hospital visitor restrictions, he’d only been able to see and speak to them via phone since his accident.

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart. If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have been able to do this, being away from my family for so long,” he told those who had gathered. “You’ve done things I would have never asked anyone to do, and you always did it with a smile on your face. You’re part of my family now and I really respect what you do and how you do it.”

We share Nathan’s story not simply because he was an amazing patient who’s on the road to recovery. His story reminds us that although much of the health care focus the past few months has been on COVID-19, care for patients with other illnesses and injuries continued at Genesis, as always.

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