Kim West and his bride, Tammy

It started with cancer.


It ended with a wedding.


Kim West wanted to marry his sweetheart, Tammy, when cancer threw an obstacle in their path.


Thanks to rehabilitation at Life Care Center of Elizabethton, Tennessee, however, it was a challenge West would overcome.


West came to Life Care Center of Elizabethton on July 18, 2017, after undergoing surgery for esophageal cancer. When he first arrived, he could not walk and needed a mechanical lift to get out of bed. He needed moderate to maximum assistance for other self-care activities and was also on a feeding tube. He could only eat soft foods and struggled to get enough nutrition by mouth.


Over the next several weeks, West worked hard with physical, occupational and speech therapists.


“We used the Omnicycle and NuStep® exercise machines to build up his strength and worked on his activities of daily living with occupational therapy,” said Kaveri Pant, director of rehab.


Speech therapists used neuromuscular electrical stimulation and oral pharyngeal exercises to improve West’s swallowing ability and get him safely eating more textures.


When West went home on Sept. 1, he could walk with a walker and carry out most of his self-care skills. He was eating a regular diet and had an appointment to remove the feeding tube.


“The staff are great,” said West. “They worked with me and pushed me to get my strength back in my legs and arms. Now I can walk up stairs and get up and down in a chair and a lot of other things I could not do. You all have given me my hope back.”


“He had one wish at time of discharge, and that was to get married to the love of his life in our courtyard,” said Pant.


West’s dream was realized on Sept. 30, when Life Care Center of Elizabethton associates planned a wedding ceremony in the courtyard.


“When Kim walked down the aisle, using only a cane, and said his vows, there was not a dry eye in the crowd,” said Pant.

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