New Jersey Family Helps Stroke Patients Communicate With Loved Ones

The Rydarowski family standing outside of JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute

August 05, 2022

Julian (Jules) Rydarowski was recovering from heart surgery at home in the early days of the pandemic when his son, Joe Rydarowski, noticed that Jules seemed confused. When he couldn’t answer simple questions, it became clear something was very wrong. Knowing that hospitals were closed to visitors, and this might be the last time they could see him, Joe asked his sister, Susan Gwiazda, to join him at their father’s house. Later that day, Jules was admitted to JFK University Medical Center after being diagnosed with a stroke.
 
“That was the last time we were in the same room as him until the day he passed,” Joe says.
 
During the six weeks that Jules—a 90-year-old retired pharmacist and lifelong New Jersey resident—was in the hospital, his speech therapists, Jessica Sharon and Lindsay Shields, went out of their way to help him stay in touch with Joe, Susan and the rest of the large extended Rydarowski family.
 
Because Jules had a hearing impairment and his stroke left him with cognitive difficulties, simply picking up the landline in his room was not an option. Instead, Jessica and Lindsay would bring him a tablet from the hospital’s supply or loan their personal cell phones to help him video chat with his family.
 
“The grandkids made a banner for him to see from his fourth floor window, and Jessica and Lindsay brought him to the window so he could see it,” Susan says. “Later, when he was moved to the first floor, we would talk to him on their cell phones while we stood outside his window.”
 
Adds Joe: “They were so good to him with helping him communicate with us, and we would have gone out of our minds if we couldn’t talk to him. He couldn’t understand why we couldn’t come see him, so being able to video chat with him helped us all cope with his long hospitalization.”
 
In lieu of flowers at Jules’ funeral, Joe and Susan took up a collection to help the JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute’s Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology purchase additional technology to allow patients recovering from strokes and other conditions communicate with family members.
 
“This generous donation will go to technology that is useful not just for communication with families, but also rehabilitation and therapy. These laptops and other devices will help speech therapists connect patients with the outside world, which is so important,” says Greg Jones, director of development for JFK University Medical Center Foundation. “The Rydarowskis were a joy to work with. They wanted to make a specific impact because they were so thankful for the connection between them, their speech therapists and their beloved father.” 

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