Success Stories

Coley Todd

Coley sustained a severe traumatic brain injury in a motor cross accident

Coley Todd has always been physically active. He works as an excavator in construction and helps run the family construction business. Throughout his youth, Coley was involved in basketball and motocross. He had stepped away from racing dirt bikes but, in his 30s, picked the sport up again. He considered himself a “weekend warrior” and participated in the Phoenix Motor Cross Series racing dirt bikes. One of those weekend races changed his life.

Coley and his wife, Victoria, shared their recollection of that April day. “I don’t recall much from the accident,” Coley stated. “Or the days at the Phoenix hospital or the first week at Rehabilitation Hospital of Northern Arizona (RHNA). I slept a lot. My wife has had to fill in the missing pieces.”

Victoria, a physical therapist by trade, stated, “He wrecked on a wet track on a jump. I was there, and when I got to him, I saw that he had cracked his helmet. I had a gut feeling there was a head injury. There was an ambulance on the scene, but we had to wait for another ambulance to transport him to the hospital. He didn’t know who I was.”

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Keith Pahovama

Keith and his wife, Laurinda, chose RHNA for his recovery from a TBI

Keith Pahovama has always enjoyed his job working as a program manager for the Hopi Tribe. He takes great pride in working with the Hopi Villages in economic development and assisting with obtaining grants that fund the building of community centers. He also assists with coal mine maintenance and obtaining heavy equipment for village projects. In addition to his professional endeavors, Keith enjoys working on his ranch with his family, tending to the cattle.

It was while tending to cattle with his son that Keith’s health began to unravel. Keith and his son were separating cattle on foot. “The cattle backed up, and I was walking backward,” Keith recalled. “I lost my footing and fell backward, landing on my shoulder. I didn’t think I had hit my head. I finished what I was doing and thought I was okay.” 

Keith’s wife, Laurinda, tearfully remembered the harrowing weeks that followed. “The following week, he had three different bouts of shaking really bad, and just didn’t seem right. He first went to be evaluated at the clinic. They thought he was having a heart attack and sent him to a facility in Phoenix, and he was discharged the next day. He was so weak and could barely walk. I tried to help him the best I could. I just couldn’t understand why they would discharge him like this. It was so hard.” 

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Baje Whitethorne, Sr.

Baje Whitethorne, Sr. lived an active life as a working artist before suffering from COVID-19 and a heart attack

Baje Whitethrone, Sr. has lived a very active lifestyle. A working artist for over forty years, Baje is the author of two children’s books and illustrator of nine children’s picture books. He has also created various pieces of canvased art. Baje said, “I wanted to share my life from the reservation and share stories through my art. There was a lot of learning to make and share the work and make it a small business. With the blessing of my wife and family, I have been able to do that.” In addition to his artwork, Baje remained physically active, running six miles and biking 12 miles a day.

Then, Baje’s health took a downturn.

“My heart was pounding, and I couldn’t breathe,” Baje said, recalling how his journey began. “My son had to call the EMTs, and that’s when they found that I had COVID. While at the hospital, I had a heart attack. I was on a ventilator for a week. I was so debilitated from my illness. My ability to walk and mobility really suffered.”

Extremely weak as a result of his extensive hospitalization, doctors recommended an inpatient rehabilitation stay. Baje turned to Rehabilitation Hospital of Northern Arizona (RHNA) to help him regain his strength and independence. At RHNA, Baje would receive the concentrated therapies he needed to improve the weakness he developed from prolonged illness and the therapy he needed to strengthen his heart.

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Arthur Joe

Arthur found both physical and emotional healing at RHNA

Arthur Joe found more than just physical rehabilitation at Rehabilitation Hospital of Northern Arizona (RHNA). He found community. Arthur recently admitted to RHNA after undergoing extensive spinal surgery due to malfunctioning hardware.

During his stay at RHNA, a new program called the ‘Patient Led Supportive Discussion Group’ began. The group is a patient-driven group that allows patients to facilitate and participate in the meeting voluntarily. Patients are offered a safe environment to express and share their thoughts and feelings about their experiences related to their medical journey and rehab process. Participants may also listen and not share. All are encouraged to listen with their ears and eyes and not judge or interrupt. What is said in the group remains in the group and is not shared with people outside the group. Nothing is written down, and no patient information is included.

Arthur participated in this discussion group, and his experience prompted him to create a piece of artwork of his takeaways from participating in the group. Arthur explained the components of his artwork and what each part of his drawing means from his perspective.

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Patrick Conley

Patrick chose RHNA for his recovery following a hip replacement

Patrick Conley describes his life as an “unconventional, nonconforming, entrepreneurial life.”

Patrick has an affinity for the vast landscapes of Arizona, which underlines much of his life. For many years, he has shared his knowledge of the various rock formations of the Grand Canyon, Marble Canyon, and other areas of the state. Since 1969, Patrick has been a river guide on the Colorado River and led expeditions as a wilderness outfitter. His wide-ranging knowledge of the land has even led Patrick to assist with scouting beautiful, scenic locations for Hollywood movies filmed in the state.

Perhaps most significantly, though, is Patrick’s non-profit work, including being one of the founders of Grand Canyon Youth. “Giving back is what life is all about and brings so much joy,” he humbly stated.

However, health issues have recently slowed Patrick’s active lifestyle. He recalls having difficulty walking a couple of years ago, the result of his right hip being “bone on bone.” During a river trip on the San Juan River, Patrick struggled mightily. “I basically had to roll on and off the boat due to my hip. It was so disabling,” he recalled.

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Shari Lightfoot

While at RHNA, Shari Lightfoot learned techniques to enable her to walk again

One of the most joy-filled experiences for our staff occurs when a patient return to visit us on their own two feet. Recently, Shari Lightfoot provided the team at Rehabilitation Hospital of Northern Arizona with such a moment when she stopped by to thank us for the care and education she received.

Before admitting to RHNA, Shari lived a busy, independent life. “I have always been active. Not much could keep me down,” she noted. For most of her life, Shari cared for animals, especially horses. She was a barrel racer and a drill team member, enjoyed ice and roller skating, and participated in jousting. In addition, Shari raised a daughter, whom she assisted with many 4-H projects. “I have even wrestled steer to help with getting them branded,” she added.

One September day, that active lifestyle slowed dramatically while Shari and her husband were horse camping in Happy Jack, Arizona. They had a full but fun day. So when Shari felt a pull in her back later that evening, she assumed that she simply overdid it and that it would pass. After having dinner and playing cards, Shari went to lie down.

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Mary Wiese

Experiencing the symptoms of a stroke, Mary Wiese called 911 and saved her own life.

Mary Wiese has enjoyed her retirement years, living in the Morman Lake area in her A-frame cabin with her husband. Mary loves crafting, which filled most of her days. Mary likes to cross-stitch, crochet, and knit and is an avid gardener.

Then one day, Mary became dizzy. Her hand and leg went numb. She recalled seeing the warning signs of stroke on the TV. Connecting her symptoms, Mary called 911 immediately.

“I saved my own life,” Mary recalled.

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Tim Christensen

Diagnosed with paraplegia after a motorcycle accident, Tim Christensen seeks to help others receiving the same diagnosis

For most of his adult life, Tim Christensen worked as an electrician. In fact, Tim worked for the company that installed the electricity at Rehabilitation Hospital of Northern Arizona (RHNA) during the hospital’s construction. He recalled working on the main unit during the installation and was familiar with the layout of the facility and the patient rooms.

Little did Tim know he would one day need RHNA’s services himself.

One November day, Tim was in a motorcycle accident. He sustained multiple fractures in the accident, including a T7-8 burst fracture of the spine, a right tibia/fibula fracture, a left ankle fracture, a right wrist fracture, and multiple rib fractures. The fracture to Tim’s spine resulted in paraplegia. He underwent several surgeries, and both of his legs were in external fixators for some time before eventually being removed.

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James Begay

James Begay came to Rehabilitation Hospital of Northern Arizona (RHNA) after a below-the-knee amputation. James required the amputation after sustaining an injury while living in a cave near Page, Arizona. He quickly became a favorite of the staff at the hospital because of his positive outlook and determined spirit.

James received a whole-hearted send-off from the team at RHNA when he was discharged. He made many friends during his stay, and you could often find him talking with other patients and staff throughout the day. In fact, the day James discharged was his birthday. The staff gathered together to sing and eat cake, celebrating not only his birthday but his progress

When asked what he was most looking forward to upon leaving RHNA, James answered, “going back to work and seeing all my friends.”

James returned to Page with a new prosthetic to help him walk and placement in a group home to have the support needed to achieve his goal of working again.

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Annella Carter

Annella’s advice for stroke survivors? “Don’t give up! Fight! Life is too precious!”

Annella Carter was a fairly active person before suffering a series of strokes. Annella suffered three basilar artery strokes, which are blockages in the basilar artery system. The basilar artery delivers oxygen-rich blood to some of the most important areas of the brain. This type of stroke can be particularly devastating.

Annella, however, is not one to back down. After her third stroke, Annella came to the Rehabilitation Hospital of Northern Arizona to regain her independence. Annella chose RHNA at the recommendation of her nurses at Flagstaff Medical Center.

“Everyone was so nice,” she recalls of the staff at RHNA. “The physical therapists were very good in helping me get better.”

There was no shortage of motivation for Annella to get better. “My husband and I have many things we need to do,” she said, “I want to be able to move freely again, and to go swimming.”

Annella is well on her way back to independence. She defines success as “being happy” and offers this advice to others recovering from a stroke: “Don’t give up! Fight! Life is too precious!”

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Diane Hoffman

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Diane Hoffman on her day of discharge from the Rehabilitation Hospital of Northern Arizona

Diane Hoffman loved rowing rafts down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. She spent much of her life enjoying the outdoors and traveling the world. But recently, that all changed.

A few months after having a total hip replacement, Diane fractured her femur in a ski accident. She admitted to Flagstaff Medical Center for treatment, where she used to work as a physical therapist. As a retired physical therapist, Diane knew rehabilitation would help restore her independence. After she was stabilized, Diane transferred to the Rehabilitation Hospital of Northern Arizona.
Fiercely independent, Diane longed to return to the outdoors and her prior level of activity. Diane has big plans for the future. “In a year, I will be trekking on the North Face of Mount Everest in Tibet,” Diane said. “I need to get myself perfectly rehabbed to do that.”
Originally, Diane planned to scale the world’s largest mountain next month. But her injury forced her to put that plan on hold. Realizing the trip to Tibet started here in Flagstaff, Diane poured herself into her rehabilitation.
Helping her on that journey was her physical therapist, Leonard. “Leonard is one of the best physical therapists I have ever met,” reflected Diane. “And I’ve spent a lot of time working in rehab. Leonard helped me along with my recovery faster than I could have done without being in rehab with him.”
Dr. Holt, the medical director at RHNA, also played a big part in Diane’s recovery. “One of the finest doctors I’ve ever met in rehab,” Diane said of him. “He was very supportive and engaged all the time.”
“There were many nurses and PCTs who were very helpful to me while I was there. All of the staff were exceptional, and I can highly recommend the hospital.”
Looking to the future, Diane has her eyes set on October. Her goal is to be able to walk sufficiently to be in the bottom of the Grand Canyon for three weeks. This will be important prep for her trip to Mount Everest.
“It’s three weeks long, and we will start at 14,000 feet. We’ll go up-and-down many times, over many passes, to 19,000 feet. Camping and being in the middle-of-nowhere, with no way out, for three weeks.”
At RHNA, we have no doubts that Diane will be able to achieve her goals. It’s only one more mountain to climb.


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Danielle Sloan

The staff at RHNA made sure Danielle could visit her daughter at FMC each day.

It started with a bad headache, but that’s about all Danielle Sloan remembers.

Danielle lived a happy life as a busy mom, making a simple life with her partner. She was 32 weeks pregnant with her fifth child, a girl, when the headache started. Danielle asked her significant other to take her to the emergency room. On the way to the ER, she passed out.

When they arrived, it quickly became clear Danielle made the right request. She had suffered an intracranial hemorrhage, or bleeding inside the skull.

Surgery addressed the hemorrhage, but Danielle would need rehabilitation in order to return home. At the recommendation of her physicians, she chose Rehabilitation Hospital of Northern Arizona.

At RHNA, Danielle participated in intensive therapy to help her regain her independence. Danielle worked hard to return home with her daughter, who was in a special care unit at Flagstaff Medical Center.

Family plays an important role in a patient’s recovery. The staff at RHNA made sure Danielle was transported to FMC each day to visit her daughter.

Back at RHNA, everyone worked together to help Danielle reach her therapy goals. “There’s so many that stand out so much to me,” Danielle said of the staff that helped her recover. “Matt and Bryce from speech therapy. Solomon from physical therapy. Susan from occupational therapy. Lynn in respiratory therapy. Nikki, my case manager. Dr. Holt, I can’t forget about him. So many nurses and staff.”

“I’ve come to know the great staff, and I just became friends with all of them,” Danielle added. “They motivated me and told me I was doing a good job.”

Danielle also befriended a fellow patient, Vanessa, and they remain in touch. “We keep in contact with each other, keep motivating each other.”

Danielle is excited to return home and do the things she used to do. Things like laundry, cleaning the house, driving, taking care of her kids. “I just want to be so comfortable to be on my own,” Danielle explained. “I want to be more independent.”


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Vanessa Harris

When Vanessa suffered a stroke, she was in the right place: in the presence of her roommate. Vanessa’s roommate knew the signs of a stroke. As a result, she recognized what happened to Vanessa, and got her to the emergency room in Show Low, AZ.

Vanessa Harris is preparing to return home after inpatient stroke rehabilitation at RHNA.

Vanessa’s road to recovery began at the hospital in Show Low. But in order to return home safely, Vanessa would need intensive inpatient rehabilitation. For that, she chose Rehabilitation Hospital of Northern Arizona.

At RHNA, Vanessa’s goal was to return home independent. “I want to be able to drive and go do the things that I used to be able to do,” Vanessa said. Prior to her stroke, Vanessa enjoyed camping with her best friend and spending time with her dogs. The motivated her to work hard in her therapy sessions.

“Determination and perseverance,” Vanessa said, when asked how she defines success. Vanessa acknowledges the role motivation played in her recovery, as well as those who cared for her at RHNA. “There was a lot of staff,” Vanessa noted as she reflected on those who helped her heal. “A lot of [my recovery] has to do with Carissa and the physical therapy team, and Matt with speech therapy. I’m grateful the people here were so caring!”

Vanessa looks forward to returning home and eventually driving again. We are so proud of Vanessa, and so thankful her roommate knew how to spot a stroke!

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