Lakeland Health Care

Patient Stories

Celebrating Survivors

Age Diagnosed
Acute Inpatient Rehabilitation
Feature Story

Michael Martinak, 26, an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), was injured on the job and herniated a disc in his lower back. Discs are the cushions that separate individual vertebra in the spine and — when healthy — allow for flexibility and pressure absorption. Michael has a history of herniated discs, and this particular one was so severe that it put him out of work and required he see a specialist. The injury grew worse over the next few months; physical therapy was unable to keep his pain at bay.

Michael’s condition worsened and he lost all feeling in his right leg and could not walk. As a man who worked hard to provide for his fiancée and two-year-old daughter, being confined to a bed was devastating.

Michael was admitted to the Ortho/Neuro Unit at Lakeland Medical Center, St. Joseph. There he met Neurosurgeon Christian Sikorski, MD, FAANS, FACS, who explained the nature of Michael’s injuries and treatment complications. Dr. Sikorski insisted on visiting Michael daily, including reviewing all of his charts and test results. Michael said it meant a lot to know that Dr. Sikorski took a genuine interest in his condition. Such care helped him stay positive during this low point of immobility.

Thanks to the hard work from Lakeland team members in the Ortho/Neuro Unit and a personal call from Dr. Sikorski, Michael was transferred to Lakeland Hospital, Watervliet for acute inpatient rehabilitation. Each day brought its own challenge, as Michael had yet to see results. However, the staff continued to encourage his efforts, refusing to let him give up.

On December 14, Michael’s birthday, the feeling in his right leg began to return. Testing out the sensations, Michael slowly coaxed his body to a standing position. Then, to the amazement of his physical therapy team, he tentatively took several steps, making his way across the room.

“I love my family and would do anything to see them happy and make them proud,” Michael said. “Being able to hug my fiancée and daughter made me feel on top of the world. It was the greatest thing that could’ve happened on my birthday.” Michael also mentioned the involved help of Katie Parker, PA, Community Medical Center, Watervliet. She helped manage Michael’s ongoing care, as well as provided him with back braces and other equipment.

Michael’s progression back to health was slow at first, starting off with a walker, and then regular use of a cane. Michael is still working toward regaining his full health, but he can walk without assistance and accomplish most tasks. Michael is in good spirits now, focusing on caring for his family and moving into a new house. Being able to play with his daughter once again has been a real gift.

Michael thanked additional Lakeland team members from St. Joseph and Watervliet and he completed several Above & Beyond recognition forms to honor the following people:

  • Kristy Bradford, CNA
  • Erin Brinkley, PT
  • Amber Copeman, CNA
  • Debra Flower, RN
  • Ramya Guthikonda, MSPT
  • Julia Hacker, RN
  • Leanna Harton, RN
  • Nathan Jordan, MD
  • Alyssa Judkins, COTA
  • Mark Lightner, RN
  • Jacquelyne Oliphant, CNA
  • Nathan Prine
  • Subhaschandra Ravi, MD
  • April Slater, RN
  • Michelle Smith, OTR
  • Rosie Tanner, RN
  • Carol Vandenberg, RN
  • Brian Ward, OTR, MA, ATC

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    Lakeland Medical Center, St. Joseph  
    Lakeland Hospital, Niles  
    Lakeland Hospital, Watervliet  
    Center for Outpatient Services, St. Joseph  

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