A walk across the kitchen is a big challenge for Linda Perry, but slow and labored steps don’t weigh down her buoyant spirit. With every inch she gains with the help of her new walker and prosthetic leg, she smiles big and laughs long and hard.
“You’re doing real good,” says her husband, Pat Perry, with encouragement, as Linda’s laughter continues. “You got it, there you go.”
She makes it safely to the kitchen sink and looks happily out a window overlooking a sunlit orchard. This is her first morning back in her Kerman home after several long months away at the Healthcare Centre of Fresno, a nursing home and rehabilitation facility where she healed from a recent bout with cancer and learned to walk again after a bad infection resulted in the amputation of her left leg.
The center’s director of activities, Jeremy Salas, has seen a lot of challenging illnesses and injuries over the years, but never a patient that overcame them quite like Perry.
She gave me a sense of empowerment, a sense of hope, that if she can do it, so can I.
Jeremy Salas, director of activities at Healthcare Centre of Fresno
“She’s been an inspiration,” Salas says, “to overcome any obstacle in life. … She gave me a sense of empowerment, a sense of hope, that if she can do it, so can I.”
Perry entered the center in December gravely ill and barely conscious, and walked out of its doors on March 23 with the assistance of a walker and glowing with excitement. The center’s staff lined up to wish her farewell.
“They all knew that the day I got discharged I wanted to walk out with a walker, not ride out with a wheelchair, and I did it,” Perry says. “Oh it was so great – it was so great!”
Major health issues developed for Perry five years ago, beginning with the smallest of injuries: A scrape on the shin tinier than a pinky nail from tripping over a wooden planter in her backyard. The wound got infected and grew, eventually eroding skin and muscles throughout her shin, making it hard to walk. She often fell. Healing the wound was more of a challenge due to peripheral artery disease, which slows her circulation, and chemotherapy treatments that she received last year to fight lung cancer.
I think her recovery went well because of her attitude. She’s just a very positive, cheerful, love-to-laugh kind of person.
DeAnna Jones, physical therapist assistant at Healthcare Centre of Fresno
Perry’s health declined further after her leg was amputated late last year, and doctors prepared her husband of 31 years for the worst. Pat’s response to the thought of losing her: “No, that’s not going to happen.”
When Linda lost her laughter, Pat did all he could to bring it back.
“I was constantly trying to make her laugh,” he says. “I had a lot of people look at me and think, ‘Boy, there’s a strange one.’ ”
Laughing is really a good healer.
Pat is overjoyed to have his wife back home and healthy. He says he starts every morning by giving her a kiss and telling her how much he loves her.
“I give her a happy morning,” he explains. “If you got a happy morning, you’ve got to have a happy day.”
On Linda’s first full day back home, the couple watched the sunrise together and spent all morning at the kitchen table talking and sipping coffee.
“I love life more than I ever have,” Linda says, “and I think this experience has really taught me the appreciation for life – and you just bring that joy into your spirit and it just goes on and on. There are good things that happen, it’s not all bad. So when you learn that, you get really happy, and you laugh. That really helps.”