Home Runs For Life: Mark Hartman
The invitations were out for the Sept. 14, 2017 nuptials of Stephanie Neiman and Mark Hartman.
Hartman had worked hard to get their home ready to host the ceremony and reception. He built a dance floor. He built a bar in a barn on their property where the ceremony and reception would be held. They had a DJ hired. A hog roast was planned.
But weddings sometimes take unexpected detours. This wedding, which still hasn’t taken place, took a life-altering detour.
A series of health events changed not only the wedding plans, but the lives of the couple.
Three days before the wedding, Hartman had a pulmonary embolism, a potentially fatal clot that moved to his lungs. He had a stenting procedure and an ablation procedure to treat atrial fibrillation.
He developed bacterial pericarditis, an inflammation of the membrane surrounding the heart. The infection spread to his spine, damaging his spinal cord.
He would have danced at the wedding. Now he couldn’t walk and it was suggested by at least one doctor he might never walk again.
“The doctor told my brother there was a good chance that I would never walk again,’’ Hartman said. “They never told me that. If they had, I might have just stopped trying. It was tough. I probably would have given up.”
Because of financial issues that would develop, the couple has not married.
“We would have to give up everything we own…all our assets. Kind of an extreme way to get out of a wedding, don’t you think?’’ Nieman joked. “It’s just a ceremony. I’m still here and have been here for him the entire time from the time he needed help just going to the bathroom to now.’’
Back On His Feet
Nieman has been a key member of a team that has Hartman back on his feet independently. Twice a week he is progressing under the guidance of physical therapist Liz Arp and physical therapist assistant Pam Glasgow at Genesis Physical Therapy at Valley Fair in Davenport.
Nieman met the 54-year-old Hartman when she was one of his dialysis techs. At the time of his spinal injury, he was on the waiting list for a kidney. Because of his injuries, he no longer is a candidate for kidney transplant.
There are many remarkable recoveries of patients in Genesis Physical Therapy locations. Hartman’s story certainly qualifies.
After the initial crisis of the heart issues and the spinal injury, Hartman spent a month in the inpatient rehabilitation unit at Genesis Medical Center, West Central Park. It was there that Dr. Ryan Taylor, D.O., one of the rehabilitation doctors, said there was a 70 percent chance Hartman would walk again.
“I was told that after my first year of recovery, the chances were that I wouldn’t get any better,’’ Hartman said. “I have since found out that isn’t true. I feel like I’m still progressing.’’
So does Arp, who said, “I’ve had a patient still progressing 12 1/2 years after their injury. Another is 8 or 9 years post-injury and is still making progress.’’
Hartman did need teammates. When he first started at Valley Fair, he had to be hooked up to a support system called LiteGait® in order to take a few steps on a treadmill and initially, he wasn’t actually taking the steps himself.
“It would take three people 15 to 20 minutes to get me hooked up and they would push my legs forward to have me take steps. Not for very long either,’’ Hartman said. “I was thinking, ‘is this me? Is this how it is going to be?’ I was pretty bummed. I needed help with everything.’’
Gradually, Hartman began to start walking the treadmill with his own steps. From there he advanced to walking the perimeter of the Valley Fair gym with assistance and devices.
“There was a day when I looked at him and thought, ‘he can walk,’’’ Nieman said.
He could and does. Hartman no longer needs assistance from clinic staff when he walks. He wears braces and sometimes uses a cane, but doesn’t use the cane all the time.
The wood cane, worn and obviously well-used previously, has special meaning for Hartman.
“It was my grandpa’s,’’ Hartman explained.
Hartman’s inspiring recovery was recognized by the Quad Cities River Bandits on Aug. 16 at Modern Woodmen Park. The Home Runs for Life promotion recognizes Genesis patients who have recovered from injuries with the help of therapies, technology and staff available from Genesis.